Don’t Kick Gerald Off The Rock!

Last Sunday I attended an employee screening for Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to one of my generation’s beloved Pixar movies, Finding Nemo. Walking into any Pixar film, we expect an excellent story with bits of humor, sadness, and hope, as well as vivid characters who stay with us long after the theater. We, or at least I myself, don’t expect to feel uncomfortable at any point.

But that is exactly what I felt when the goofy sea lion character Gerald is introduced early on in the movie. The motif is that Gerald wants to join his fellow sea lions sunbathing on a rock, but as soon as he approaches, they forcefully bark him off. It seems my feelings are validated, since I’m not the first to comment on how the other sea lions interact with him:

  • The Blog on Huffington Post: “The One Glaring Problem with ‘Finding Dory'”
  • zap2it: “Did ‘Finding Dory’ mock autism with Gerald the sea lion?”
  • USA Today: This article is more complimentary and notes that “‘Gerald eventually has his day.'” However it also mentions that he’s aware there’s a “‘playground pecking order.'”

Loop Source: The Blog on Huffington Post

Gerald’s scene stealing is altogether short, so I’m not saying that it detracted too much from the likability of the story. It hasn’t caused an outright backlash on the scale of the ire caused by Tilda Swinton’s casting in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, so no one’s calling anyone, for lack of a more descriptive word, “butt-hurt,” yet. It is surprising that Pixar included this “you can’t play with us”-type scene though.

I share the same worry as some of the above and other article authors that today’s kids, who’ll likely have a stronger bond with Finding Dory than its predecessor, may watch Gerald getting bullied (playfully or not) and decide that since it’s all in jest, it’s okay. Obviously, it’s not. I hope that kids (or adults!) don’t kick the Gerald in their lives off the rock.

Maybe I react this way because at some points of my life, and come to think of it anyone else’s life, we have been the Gerald or had a friend who was. He’s a little different in appearance, personality, and maybe mental ability from everyone else. When I started pursuing figure skating seriously as a tween, I was a little heavier set than everyone else. I wasn’t into the same celebrities, and I preferred Japanese rock over Justin Bieber any day. (He’s okay now.) I felt the exclusion that comes with a clique not willing to let you in, and it hurt my self-esteem at the time. There wasn’t any sea lion barking, but there were side glances, which are just as poisonous to a tweenaged girl.


As for the rest of Finding Dory, we all know the expectations for it were incredibly high, and the movie as a whole impressed me for the technical advances in animation and creative storyline. At times maybe a bit too creative, as I found it hard to imagine a whale shark jumping out of its tank and back into the ocean…

whale shark and diver
Source: Tiger Quoll’s Photobucket.

But the overall pieces fit into the ending so well that I was taken by surprise when the dots all connected. I can’t imagine the number of ways that were brainstormed for how to find Dory, but I sincerely loved what they came up with. Have you seen her yet?

Humor Me: I’m a fan…

I realize that by publishing this revelation to the internet, it will always be attributable to me, but there’s no need to hide this anymore. You’ve also probably had a long hard week and deserve a good laugh, no? Well I have, so here goes.

As I was doing some digital spring cleaning, I came across a word file titled simply, “JA.”

“JA”? Whatever could this be? I clicked it open and pretended to myself for the briefest second that I didn’t remember exactly what this was about.

Ah, yes, this was my two-chapter long piece of fan fiction about an original character I created (that’s “OC” in fan-fic terminology) and her romance with a character named Jack Atlas. If you remember a little cartoon series called Yu-Gi-Oh, you might not have known about (or even been in the target demographic for) an offshoot called Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s! In it, you’ll find this studly character with dangerously spiky blonde hair.

brooding jack atlas
Those studs. Those spikes. That brooding.

Some people are infatuated with Ryan Gosling. Chris Hemsworth. Chris Pratt. Chris Rock. You know, the usual fare. Oh no, that wasn’t enough for me. I had a crush on a cartoon character! They don’t get more inaccessible than that.

You may ask, what did I see in this character to develop a crush so strong that I wrote an embarrassing Harlequin-paperback-type story in which I, through an OC, lived out my cartoon fantasy? Honestly, I can’t tell you. The character is brash and arrogant. He’s the equivalent of today’s esports star backed by corporate sponsorships. …Okay, that’s still a bit out there, so think of him as the Lionel Messi of a dueling card game.

I can’t lead you on like this without providing some juicy bits from my actual fan-fic, so as promised, see below for the hilarity. Some background, my original character’s name is Hana, and she studies piano performance at Edelweiss, a school I also made up for the fic. Jack the “King” has ascended to the top of the card game competitors’ circle, and Hana is a childhood friend turned girlfriend. When Jack left their poor childhood home to become a star, he convinced Hana to follow along, but her heart may still belong to…Yusei, a different childhood friend!

Today, she had neither the energy nor inclination to argue, so she simply sat and laid her head back on the white leather couch and listened to her MP3 player, a gift from the ‘King’ himself.”

MP3 player? Well, at least we know I didn’t write this too recently.

His words pierced her core; he knew and had seen her depressed and indignant when she wanted to just give up caring for her sisters and her dreams. Her watery eyes released some of the tears she had harbored for so long, hidden from almost everyone.

Just look at that diction. Indignant. Harbored. Pierced!!

“Yes, I am. And don’t start–,” he put two fingers against her lips, “with that betrayal story.”
She shook his hand away, “Then what do I do?”
“Nothing. Except know that I will protect you.”

Fingers, against, lips! The p-word! Sigh, I think I could have been Stephenie Meyer had I kept going.

“Yusei. Yusei I’m so sorry! I really am. You have no ide-” She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence because he had swiftly wrapped her up in his arms.

(wheeze) (rolling on floor) (laughing or crying can’t tell)

“Yes, I did, and I still do. And I will always care about you. Even if Jack does win you over, I will always be here to catch you when he lets you down.”
‘I love you too much to let that ever happen.’ Yusei thought.

I don’t make this stuff up. Okay technically, I did.

Bolstered by the Beyhive

Here’s something crazy. I had tickets for Beyonce’s Formation tour that stopped in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and I almost didn’t go.

What?

Yes. I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to go alone. Stupid, right? Granted, parking fees at the Rose Bowl could deter anyone, but once you’ve spent upwards of $200 on a ticket, you shouldn’t be pre-occupied with that marginal cost.

I acknowledge that I didn’t have to go alone. I could’ve asked my new friends in LA if they wanted to go. I could’ve broadcast my intentions on Facebook and gathered a group to buy tickets together. I could’ve done all these things, but I just didn’t feel like they’d happen, whether due to scheduling snafus or their general disinterest.

I was prepared to feel alone in LA. It’s a sprawling metropolis, and everyone’s busy with their own lives. I still haven’t made a ton of friends here, and those I can call new friends, I don’t know very well yet. I’m doing my best to change that though.

As a consequence, I leaned on my friends from high school a lot. When I needed to complain, and it happens more often than I’m proud of, they were the ones who got my Facebook messages or texts. (Side note: I should buck the millennial stereotype and call people more…) Over time, I began to take for granted how much negativity a person could take, no matter how close of a friend they are to you. I was using my friends as “trash cans,” if you will. And that outweighs any success I feel like I’ve managed in my first year as an adult. (By “success,” I mean paying my bills on time and managing my road rage.)

Ironically, it is one of these very friends who slapped verbal sense into me and encouraged me to go to the concert. I’m very glad I did.

Beyonce’s set, a giant LED-covered cube that opened and closed to reveal her and her dancers, projected her magnificence so that everyone in the stadium could see. The guys behind me abandoned their chill and turned into blubbering fangirls.

beyonce singing
Queen in action.

At first, I felt self-conscious as a solo attendee sandwiched between drunk middle-aged women gal pals and a son and his (probably confused) father. I wanted to bop along to Snoop’s surprise performance of “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” I wanted to go crazy and wave my arms and scream, “Yas, yas, YAS!” But I was alone, and I contained my crazy.

I spotted another girl a few rows in front of me, who I later realized was also attending the concert alone. Carefree and decidedly not self-conscious, she jammed along to the beats. Suddenly, I felt silly. I had thought all along that I would be one of the minority coming alone, but right there was another example.

Bolstered by the Beyhive around me, I started letting loose during “Run the World (Girls).” And then Beyonce delivered just what I needed that night.

beyonce formation tour
Benelovent queen Bey.

She spoke about being there for yourself and loving yourself first, and then…

“Me myself and I, that’s all I got in the end, that’s what I found out and there ain’t no need to cry…”

She is an omniscient queen indeed.

Humor Me: Customer Service Struggz

I’m currently about 30 minutes into my estimated wait time of 60 minutes to get help from FTD, a floral and gift delivery service. (Bon Jovi said it best, “Whoa, we’re halfway there, whoa-oah! Living on a prayer!”) I ordered flowers for Mother’s Day, and they were supposed to arrive yesterday. Maybe they’ll arrive today, I thought. Most unfortunately, the latest they say they can deliver is until 9pm, and in my mom’s time zone, it’s past that time.

This is the only occasion I ever need to order flowers. But needless to say, I’m wishing I just ordered something off of Amazon Prime like I usually do. I am so sorry, Prime. I forsook you, and now I’m being punished for it. I see the error of my ways. It won’t happen again. Please accept my humblest apologies.

The old, well technically, younger, me would be slamming my pantry and refrigerator doors as I scrounge for snacks to munch on while I wait. But no, I’m enlightened now after four years of higher education and a lifetime of learning social conventions. Instead I’m channeling my frustration into a creative outlet. Look, ma, no hard feelings!

I actually have some thoughtful feedback for whoever wrote the recorded messages that chime in at spaced out interludes of the calming elevator music. For some reason, it sounds like the same music that plays during the Cars ride at Disneyland. I could be delusional at this point though. Lucky for FTD, I love that ride.

“Nothing says ‘I care’ more than an FTD floral arrangement. That’s because our FTD florists put the greatest care and the freshest flowers into each beautiful design…they know that you’re not just sending flowers, you’re sending a personal message to someone very special.”

I would argue that “nothing says you care” like answering my customer service call in less than an hour. (Sorry Bon Jovi, we overshot, now we’re more than the whole way there.) Can I be someone very special, too, FTD?

“Thanks for your patience. In consideration of your time, we encourage you to visit our website at FTD.com for fast and easy online ordering. Otherwise, please hold…”

Are you kidding me? How about starting with, “Thank you for your patience. We know you have better things to do with your time, but rest assured that we’ll be assisting you shortly.” Most likely I’ve ordered from your site already, which is why I’m even on the phone right now.

“It’s easy. It’s convenient. FTD.com is here to serve you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re ready and waiting to assist you wherever and whenever you need to get that perfect gift. Whether you’re at home, or in the office, at 2pm, or 2am…”

I guess 24 hours a day is the average because I’ve already been holding for an hour. I just don’t understand how customer service for flowers could take this long. 🙁 Wait, do I have a better chance of my call getting answered in a reasonable amount of time if I call at 2am?


After an hour and 15 minutes, my call was ultimately answered. And then?

“Got it. Let me just put you on hold for a brief second, okay?”

Guess how many seconds it’s been?

Script Bits | This is why (AI)’m here

Hello, dear reader!

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a work rut, feeling very junior and such, so I troll the web for inspiring profiles about founders and makers creating incredible things, often in the tech space. As an avid layman follower, I am deeply intrigued by artificial intelligence (AI) developments and their implications for the future. Common images that come to mind are of a terrifying I, Robot situation or a “romance with a robot” in films like Her and Japanese manga Absolute Boyfriend. My script bit is the product of my wondering what an interaction with a device (friend?) more sophisticated than today’s Amazon’s Alexa would be like. I hope you enjoy it.

AI appreciate it,

J

Script Bits | To like or to <3?

Hello, dear reader!

reactions
Source: bbc.co.uk

If you’ve used Facebook at all lately, you’ll notice that you have been empowered with five new reaction options. Sad, angry, haha, wow, and of course, a <3 — I see you, Facebook, making use of that Instagram acquisition. The first entry in my “scripted reality” series is this short, humorous script that delves into the heads of Facebook’s original target audience, college students, and their interactions with the new buttons. And their interactions with each other, kind of. As always, appreciate your read in lieu of taking another Buzzfeed quiz. (If you’re taking it at the same time, I understand and thank you anyway.)

<3,

J

An Economic Life: Un(der)employed Talent

As with any first love, figure skating never truly left me. Or rather, I never really left it. Every four years I sometimes morph into a pretend pundit for the edification and entertainment of my friends, who are gracious enough to listen to my commentary. However, I’ve had other suitors foisted on me before, by my own parents no less.

Male parent threw out a thought, “What about trying equestrian or golf?”

And I appropriately responded with, “Huh?”

I say appropriate because I had never expressed an interest in either of these activities before. I loved unicorns as much as the next 90’s kid who collected Lisa Frank stationery, I was devastated to be over the socially (and physically) permissible age to ride a pony, but equestrian is serious, no rainbows or ponies allowed. And need I say more about golf?

I would hear him out, since I understood that there must be a rationale. After all, as an accountant in his former life, numbers and logic always had to add up.

“You’re going to be in high society someday, and people in those circles do things like that. You didn’t like tennis, but it’s not too late for these sports.”

My dad was being gracious, for my tennis instructor knew I wasn’t going to be his Li Na after the first lesson. We respected each other’s time and parted ways amicably. My figure skating coach was not so lucky; I stuck around for almost a decade.

My dad continued his explanation, my mom nodding. (Though she likely masterminded broaching the topic.) “If you’re good at golf, you’ll have the respect of other businesspeople and then you can build relationships on the golf course.”

He offered some optionality, another fork in his reasoning. “Equestrian is more athletic though, so maybe you’d enjoy that more. And we live in Texas. There must be somewhere to learn.”

At this point I understood him completely. This was all coming from the same place that prompted him to shut down a passing joke from his colleague that I should start hostessing where they both worked. “She’s not going to work in a restaurant like me.”

Like me. There was a lot embedded in those words.

Like me, who used to be an accountant in one of the best hospitals in Shanghai. Like me, who may have been more than blue-collar middle-class in a country that could be hospitable at times and hostile at others. Like me, who may have become one of those businesspeople playing golf. Like me, who didn’t and who will not let his child feel that she belongs anywhere but in “high society.”

Fortunately, no one in my family has been unemployed for long, but perhaps worse is being underemployed in a job whose requirements one’s education or skills may surpass. (Don’t start about millennial baristas, don’t.) My parents didn’t let it show much, but it would’ve described their status accurately. However, the way they dressed and carried themselves betrayed their convictions that they were of a more “sophisticated” class. (This is also admittedly a side-effect of being Shanghainese; you can verify this with people familiar with the personalities of China’s regions.) On weekend outings with my family, you would never guess that they were waiters. 

I’ve picked up many of my dad’s mannerisms in particular. Regardless of his day job, he wanted to look and talk like a boss. Stand tall, shoulders down, speak clearly, show ‘em wass-up. (Latter is entirely my addition.)

Source: adeekt.fr
Source: adeekt.fr

Of course, I acknowledge these are all my hypotheses, but I have gathered enough data points to feel confident. These examples aside, my parents proved their executive abilities were as good as any F500 CEO’s by running a household while working long hours. My dad was particularly proud of his neat record and bookkeeping, true to his accountant past. He would use his former training where he could in his life now.

I can’t say for sure, but I guessed that my college admissions provided non-insignificant vindication for years of feeling insecure or inadequate compared to other family and friends. They opted to start waiting in a restaurant immediately instead of trying to redo their education here, but at least I was on the path to joining “high society.” And with a tidy office job now, it would seem that way. Seem!

Without a doubt, I will “disappoint” my parents in one way. I am still not interested in golf, and being thrown off a horse could end any further career I have, equestrian or otherwise.

I prefer to write dinky little blogs.

—–
Thanks for reading! This is the fifth in my series “An Economic-ish Life,” where I write to educate and entertain while attempting to remember and apply my liberal arts education. 🙂 And yes, the series title has changed.

An Economic Life: The Opportunity Costs of Flying

Fearless. Driven. Tenacious. Ambitious. I repeated these words in my head over and over and faster and faster the closer the plane got to landing in Los Angeles. They were my wishes for the type of person I desperately wanted to become while living in the sprawling metropolis, where dreams go to grow beyond one’s wildest dreams or to sputter out. As much as I tried to inundate my mind with positivity, a creeping sense of loneliness mixed with the trepidation of being a newly-minted “adult” also lodged itself in.

Could I be happy here? Would I? Or would the all-hours traffic slowly drive me insane? (Badum-tiss.)

—–

The opportunity costs of moving to LA were clear from the start. Driving would have to become as reflexive as bee-lining to the office kitchen for a coffee. Friends would be far removed, in San Francisco at best, and most likely be reduced to profile pictures liked and chat stickers exchanged. Overall, I would give up feeling a sense of belonging and familiarity for, at the start at least, discomfort and bumpy roads.

You cannot get something without giving up something. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything has a price. Bang only comes from relinquishing bucks.

You can say it a thousand ways, but the economic concept is simple. To rapidly advance its economy, China has given up the opportunity to have clean air. To fund other items, schools have cut budgets or entire departments for arts and music education. But as we all know, concepts we study on paper will never be as strong as the ones we directly experience. To go to college among brilliant peers, I gave up being able to drive home on the weekends when things were just too much.

Everything felt just a bit foreign and strange in a new city. You can drift past the white lines to wait for a left turn? Why are juices and coffees so expensive? (Correction, why is everything so expensive?) Parking isn’t free? (Come again, that much for 15 minutes, really?)

I wanted my suburban ease and quietude back. I didn’t want to hear sirens and loud motorcycles ripping by my window. I wanted to be able to run home instead of flying home.

http://www.thereelroundup.com/2014/12/KikisDeliveryServiceBluRayReview.html
Source: The Reel Round Up website.

But to grow, Kiki taught me that I had to fly away. From the creators of Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service tells the story of a young witch who completes her rite of passage by striking out on her own. On a night that feels right for the occasion, she and her wise-cracking cat Gigi kick off her broomstick and end up in a quaint seaside town. She finds gainful employment, makes new friends, and overcomes personal challenges. If that’s not an inspirational movie, I don’t know what is. And that’s the script I’m trying to live by.

I’m very fortunately employed. I’ve surprisingly made new friends. The emphasis there is on the word “made.” (I have to get dressed? And make small talk?) I force myself to go on solo romps and have happily discovered that LA is a la-la-land of donut shops!

I don’t have a broomstick, though I sure wish for one when traffic is bumper-to-bumper. Just like Kiki, I’ve slowly found places and ways to fit myself into this town. There are still nights where I mope because I feel disconnected from everyone I used to know. There are still times when I wished I had tried harder to live closer to my friends. But then I wouldn’t be writing this because I would have nothing to reflect on. And to me that would be more disappointing than anything else.

—–

Thanks for reading! This is the fourth in my series “An Economic Life,” where I write to educate and entertain while attempting to remember and apply my liberal arts education. 🙂

An Economic Life: An Undesired Trade Surplus

“You’re keeping score. And that’s a recipe for resentment and disaster. Don’t do this.”

This is what I thought as I stared at my phone and did it anyway. I tried to summon the latent psychic powers I knew I had. (I don’t care if I’m past the right age; I know my Hogwarts letter is coming.) I would will the person at the other end to reciprocate. To say they wouldn’t mind, to express their happiness to do something for me for once.

My neck and back were sore from hours at a desk, and my right hand experienced the niggling pain that comes from too many repetitions of small movements like swiping to unlock my phone and scrolling with my thumb. Though it didn’t compare to the soreness of disappointment. I doubted the multiple uuuuu’s in their “thank youuuu” were proportional to the depth of gratitude they felt.

How could they not see how much of myself I put out for them? Why didn’t they understand that I did everything because I so valued their presence in my life? Did they not value me nearly as much? Was I wasting my time?

No doubt many a romantic partner has cycled through the same list of questions and scuttled any hope of a mutual future. But countless friends who never made it to “best friends” must have as well. I had no excuse. I had read the advice articles that said keeping score was poison. Relationships don’t operate according to a balance of trade, but I didn’t want to keep feeling like I was generating a surplus.

—–

My fruitless and silent staring at my phone for a sign was the latest in a rout of bruisings. More and more, I felt like acquiring the heavy crown of being the “friend you can always count on” wasn’t worth it.

To my mom, the answer was simple. I created my problem and made things bad for myself while making good for anyone else. It’s not the sweetest advice, but when do we ever need advice when all is going well?

“If you feel like you don’t receive the same care in return, then you should stop, I don’t know, being so much for them.”

“But they’re still my friends.”

“Daughter, this is why people walk over you. They know you better than you do.”

“I’m just trying to be a good person. But now I feel petty.” I could cite the incidents lately where I had done something for someone else; I had sunk that low.

“But you need to be smart, too. For your own sake. Don’t go out of your own way for someone who won’t do the same.”

I ended the phone call when I heard everything she could offer. I reflected on her words, but it seemed like such a utilitarian way of evaluating my relationships. How could I say no to people if I was able to help, to listen, to just be there, even if it wasn’t convenient for me?

Maybe the answer to my questions traced back to growing up as an only child. I understood even then that friends were not blood siblings, so if I wanted to hold onto them, I needed to give them reasons to keep me. I rarely thought of it the other way around. That would be selfish, wouldn’t it? That’s not how I was raised.

No, maybe that was the problem with my thinking. Personality traits rarely manifest in absolutes. Sometimes we are selfish, and sometimes we are generous. It may be possible, but like my mom believed, it certainly wasn’t practical to give someone 100% of yourself all the time.

So how much was I to give then?

—–

Slowly, the fragments of my thoughts knit themselves into a net of understanding. I don’t call it a compromise because that implies giving something up to get something else, which was exactly the kind of thinking I wanted to avoid.

It really was simple, but not in the way my mom thought (as a caring mom would). I needed to be more forgiving of myself when I couldn’t be the super-friend I aspired to be. And I needed to have more faith in my friends for understanding no.

You’d think that when I figured this out once, I could just apply the same philosophy to romantic relationships. But as we’ve seen lately, history does repeat itself…

—–

Thank you for reading! This is the third in my series “An Economic Life,” where I write to educate and entertain while attempting to remember and apply my liberal arts education. 🙂