If you’re calling 911 to complain about Amber Alerts, you need to get a grip
Like a lot of people reading this column, I was unceremoniously awoken Tuesday morning at 4:57 a.m. by a loud, tinny, siren blaring from a smart phone plugged into the wall beside my bed.
Because I’m a human being I was annoyed, and a little peeved by this disturbance.
Because I’m a human being, I was even a little annoyed and peeved when I reached for my phone and read the reason for it. “EMERGENCY ALERT.”
But I read on. “Child abduction…Victim…3 yr old, 3 ft.” My frustration fell away. I went to the bathroom and said a prayer for the kid.
Not to gloat, but this is an appropriate, adult reaction to being woken up at 4 in the morning by an Amber Alert, i.e. a warning about a missing child who may be in danger and a method of communication that while annoying, saves lives. You don’t have to say a prayer if you don’t want to.
But something you absolutely should not do upon receiving an emergency alert, is call 911 to complain about how rude the police are for cutting short your beauty sleep and to demand, as though first responders are telemarketers selling window treatments, to “please take me off your list.”
And yet this is apparently what several people in the province of Ontario did Tuesday morning.
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At around 7 a.m., only a few hours after the Amber Alert went out, Toronto police tweeted the following stern reminder: “Once again our Communications Centre has been receiving a number of calls from citizens using it as a platform to complain about being awaken by the Amber Alert. REMINDER: 9-1-1 is for EMERGENCIES ONLY. Please help us to keep our phone lines free for real emergencies.”
Another reminder: being woken up in the middle of the night is not a real emergency, unless by some great irony, the Amber Alert appears to have literally scared a member of your household to death.
What’s truly maddening is that this isn’t the first time people in Toronto and beyond dialed 911 to whine about being roused by a potentially life-saving alert.
In February, my colleague Heather Mallick wrote about public reaction to the frantic search and tragic death of Riya Rajkumar, an 11-year-old girl abducted and later allegedly killed by her father. Dozens of people abused 911 the night police alerted the public about Riya’s disappearance.
According to Peel Region police Const. Harinder Sohi, speaking to Global News in March, “People calling in to our 911 system that night were tying up resources. We have a limited number of communicators that can deal with all these calls coming in, and unfortunately there were other emergencies that were also taking place at the same time.”
In other words, when you call 911 to complain about an Amber Alert not only do you divert resources from the emergency at hand — you divert resources from other legitimate emergencies too. There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour.
It doesn’t matter how early you have to work tomorrow or how hard it is for you to get back to sleep, or how far away you live from the city where the child in question was abducted. The only thing that matters is that a child was abducted. Get a grip — and thank God or whomever you want, that it’s not your kid’s name flashing on millions of strangers’ screens in the dark.
Luckily the missing toddler for whom Tuesday’s alert went out — a 3-year-old boy — was found safe in Toronto .
Unfortunately though there will be more missing kids in our future and because of this, more Amber Alerts. Clearly appealing to people’s common sense and humanity doesn’t prevent them from dialing 911 to report non-emergencies. The police tried this already, to no avail. Maybe what we should do is appeal to these complainers more practically.
A tip for the petty curmudgeons who carp about Amber Alerts: if you cannot abide being woken up by news of a missing child on your smartphone, turn the thing off when you go to bed. Or put it in another room, in a drawer. If you don’t want to do this because you use your phone as an alarm clock, there’s a simple solution for that too. Invest in a real alarm clock. But whatever you choose to do, please, reserve your irrational complaints for Yelp, where I’m almost certain, you’re a regular contributor.
Emma Teitel is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @emmaroseteitel
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces 2020 presidential bid
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces 2020 presidential bid ABC News 1 hr ago By BEATRICE PETERSON, ZOHREEN SHAH and JUSTIN GOMEZ © ABC News New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appears on “Good Morning America” on May 16, 2019. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made his case for president in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” after releasing a video announcing his candidacy on YouTube earlier Thursday morning.
Sitting next to his wife, Chirlane McCray, he made it clear a large part of his strategy will be to attack President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is playing a big con on America, I call him ‘Con Don.’ Every New Yorker knows we know his tricks, we know his playbook. I know how to take him on,” he told ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Trump wasted no time firing back. Within minutes, he tweeted de Blasio is “considered the worst mayor in the U.S., will supposedly be making an announcement for president today. He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!”
The Dems are getting another beauty to join their group. Bill de Blasio of NYC, considered the worst mayor in the U.S., will supposedly be making an announcement for president today. He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2019
Trump isn’t the only one opposing de Blasio’s bid for the White House. As the mayor spoke on “Good Morning America,” protesters outside the studio chanted “liar” and blew whistles loud enough to be heard inside.
Protesters chant “liar” through GMA’s window as @BilldeBlasio kicks of his announcement on the show pic.twitter.com/v0WdZYQ2UE
— Zohreen (@Zohreen) May 16, 2019
De Blasio is expected to speak to reporters in lower Manhattan later in the day. His first campaign stop Friday morning will be in Gowrie, Iowa, with his wife. With several stops expected that day, the mayor will end the night in Sioux City. On Saturday, he’ll head to South Carolina with stops in Columbia and Charleston. Sunday, he starts the day in Charleston and leaves early for his son, Dante’s, graduation.
De Blasio , who is in his second term, joins a crowded field of nearly two dozen Democrats seeking to move into the White House.
The central theme of de Blasio’s campaign is “working people first.”
Earlier this week, de Blasio held an event at Trump Tower in New York to announce that eight of the president’s signature namesake buildings would owe the city $2.1 million per year if the Trump Organization doesn’t make changes to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, in New York City’s version of the Green New Deal, which is set to take effect on Friday. As he took the stage, behind him were protesters holding signs that said “failed mayor” and “worst mayor ever,” as well as his face on the body of Big Bird from “Sesame Street.”
When asked if the protests foreshadow what’s to come for a potential bid, the mayor on Monday said: “It means we’re doing something important here in New York City, if all these people who support President Trump are opposing what we’re doing. We must be doing something right.”
(MORE: New York City mayor proposes law giving all workers 2 weeks of paid time off) De Blasio has been New York City’s mayor since January 2014. In that role, he implemented universal pre-K and signed an executive order to exchange single-use plastics for compostable or recycling alternatives in an effort to reduce carbon emissions, plastic pollution and wildlife risks.
In January, de Blasio talked on “The View” about his plan for comprehensive health care for all New Yorkers, including 300,000 undocumented New Yorkers.
De Blasio has a history with several prominent Democrats very familiar with presidential runs. He was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2000 and was sworn into office for his first term as mayor by Bill Clinton. Earlier this year, he was sworn in to his second term by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Avengers: Endgame failed the Incredible Hulk
Part of The Avengers: Endgame guide Avengers: Endgame has finally arrived in theaters, and most fans have hopefully had a chance to see it. Now that all the Loki-smashing and Thanos-clashing has come to an end, or will at least be paused for a moment or two, it felt like a good time to look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s treatment of the Hulk and see its place against the larger history of the character. Especially since Endgame treated the character so poorly. Immortal Hulk #1 Image: Al Ewing, Joe Bennett/Marvel Comics Immortal Hulk #1 Image: Al Ewing, Joe Bennett/Marvel Comics 1. Why the Hulk? Given the nom de plume, it’s fair to say that I get asked this question a lot. But I’m afraid that my answer disappoints people because it is both far more simple and more complex than they expect. On one level, it was just a snap decision. I saw Drunk Hulk on Twitter and thought it would be funny to have a Hulk doing New Yorker-style reviews. I didn’t have many expectations for the conceit beyond the initial lark, but soon it started evolving. IN THE FUTURE, EVERYONE WILL BE IN DENIS VILLENEUVE’S DUNE FOR 15 MINUTES! — DRUNK HULK (@DRUNKHULK) February 15, 2019 The persona went from coming up with silly jokes with friends to something more sprawling, personal, and resonant, a reminder that sometimes snap decisions are the best kinds of decisions if you’re willing to explore the limits of what they can be. But after doing this for the last decade (good granola, has it been that long ?), hearing that question so often has forced me to examine my own history with, relationship to, and understanding of the character at large. And I’ve come to realize that whenever someone asks me, “Why the Hulk?” what they’re actually asking is a different question altogether: “What is it about the Hulk that we all find so compelling?” Luckily, we have a lot of information to draw from because the Hulk has been a part of the pop culture lexicon since May 1962. Originally created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, this new body-bursting brute seemed an unlikely candidate for a superhero. Sure, he stems from Kirby’s fascination with the golem figure of Jewish lore (and if you want to understand his relationship to such figures, know that Kirby himself was often compared to his creation of Ben Grimm, aka the Thing), but it was Stan Lee who broadly painted the objective of this new character : For a long time I’d been aware of the fact that people were more likely to favor someone who was less than perfect … I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster. No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy … He never wanted to hurt anyone; he merely groped his torturous way through a second life trying to defend himself, trying to come to terms with those who sought to destroy him … I decided I might as well borrow from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well — our protagonist would constantly change from his normal identity to his superhuman alter ego and back again. What’s remarkable about this quote is how quickly it gets to the true heart of the character, specifically Lee’s empathy for the unwitting monster. This is so important to understand because there are so many people out there — even some writers — who reduce the Hulk to a simple metaphor for blind, overwhelming anger, and that’s that. But for Kirby and Lee, it’s far more nuanced. The Hulk is not just an angry, mindless vehicle for brutality. He is a direct expression of childlike emotional purity. Like Frankenstein’s monster, there is essentially a toddler residing in there, complete with a limited ability to interpret what is happening to him. And like a child, those interactions give way to the most extreme versions of joy, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust in response. The beauty of this choice reveals a simple irony: The Hulk may be physically invulnerable, but he is as emotionally vulnerable as it gets. Related What Phase 4 looks like after Avengers: Endgame The best versions of the character not only understand this, but they also understand how to make this irony contrast with the other half of the character: Dr. Bruce Banner. Just like Jekyll and Hyde, the duality of these two “sides” should be clear. There’s Bruce, the high-functioning self who pushes down his emotions and makes himself suitable for human presentation. And then there’s the Hulk, the fully busted-out expression of the raging subconscious id within us all. But in dramatizing this high/low dynamic, many writers make the mistake of portraying this duality in ways that are too plain or reductive. They will sometimes just make a Banner who is meek and repressed, and then indulge in Hulk as the obvious (and often ugly) power fantasy. But what this approach fails to realize is that there are so many different kinds of nuanced dualities contained in the human brain. So, contrary to what might seem obvious, it turns out that the most emotionally affecting Hulk stories are the ones that give us a personable, engaged Bruce Banner with aching humility. 2. The Lonely Man The Incredible Hulk was a beloved television show that ran from 1978 until 1982. For many Americans, it came to define the character while also giving us a plethora of pop culture gems, from impressively-thrown bears to the ever-quotable motto, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” I came to the show a little later, when the dawn of cable TV meant that we could all suddenly absorb a bevy of syndicated reruns every dang day of the week. I can’t tell you how many times I came home from sports practice, sat down with a box of Cheez-Its, and started my homework as I happily watched a body-painted Lou Ferrigno flex right through some denim. But even though I thought I was watching for those fun, tangible thrills, I was actually watching for the man who played Banner. Bill Bixby is one of our shining examples of the great working television actor. His career stretched over three decades, featuring guest appearances on an array of classics like The Twilight Zone , The Andy Griffith Show , Ironside , The Love Boat , The Joey Bishop Show , and even Fantasy Island . And he had three stand-out starring roles before he ever got to his Hulking days: first as the alien-hiding straight man in My Favorite Martian , then as a widowed young dad in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father , and then as the only magician-detective that I care to recognize: Tony Blake in The Magician . What is low-key remarkable about these three roles is that he brought vastly different performances to each of them: from wide-eyed comic fear, to understated flirtation and self-effacing grace, and then to the smooth, debonair manner needed for his sleight-of-hand-wielding detective. It’s almost as if he was a great actor or something. But what made Bixby downright transcendent is that he could do all that while still keeping this quiet, plain-faced nature underneath it all. It’s as if he just couldn’t help but emit this unflappable decency whenever he appeared on the damn screen. And I’d argue there was nothing more important to the function of his performance as Dr. Banner. Because Bixby never played the role as meek, repressed, or unemotional. Instead, he was a kind and gentle everyman who had something intensely fatherly about him. You looked into his eyes and you trusted him. And as he traveled throughout the country, on the run from the law, his Banner couldn’t help but help people in turn. Lou Ferrigno as The Incredible Hulk Image: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo But this is exactly what turned the Hulk into a genuine curse. Banner never wanted to hurt a soul or put himself at risk, which created the drama of putting your hero into the perpetual state of being caught between a rock and a hard place. But in that space, you could see how quickly Bixby’s kind emotions would turn to fear as the anger or defensiveness built up inside him, afraid of the hulking transition to come and the disasters that would surely follow. In this space, the show absolutely nailed a simple dramatic dynamic: Sometimes our dear Banner was trapped in some horrible situation, and you rooted for him to turn into the Hulk. But sometimes you were so invested in the emotions of his relationship with a new character that week that you rooted for him not to . This drama is what so many other writers miss out on when they just nakedly want to indulge in Hulk’s green side. But the TV show instead played with how Banner’s transformation into the Hulk would inevitably come too late or too soon and often to great consequence. And for a fun little aside, I will always link to this decade-old list of all the things that caused Banner to Hulk out during the show . In the end, we knew that every episode would come with the smallest of victories, but often at the greatest of costs to our dear Bill Bixby. He would simply have to move on to the next town, ever on the run, ever searching for a cure. And as the credits rolled, we got a look at him walking on the side of the road as the mournful “Lonely Man” theme played in our ears. It could make you cry almost every time, especially as you saw him stoically trying to carry all the pain and sadness within him. But he was never fully dejected, so our Banner pressed on as the paragon of decency. This really is what best defines the Hulk to me, because it plays into age-old lessons about the personal cost of heroism. This approach understands that our deepest expressions and fears can hurt others when we never mean them to. It upholds Stan Lee’s original vision beautifully and gets to the tragic heart of the character. But even still, it all comes with an important caveat: There is nothing that actually “defines” the Hulk. 3. The Non-Crisis of Infinite Hulks One of the more frequent criticisms I’ve gotten over this silly alias has been the following: “He doesn’t even talk like the Hulk!” I often can’t help but take the bait and respond with something akin to, “Actually, I’m sort of a cross between Merged/Professor Hulk from the Jenkins run in the comics.” pushes glasses up nose The point of this comment is not to throw back some pedantic nerdery. It’s that there have been so many different versions of the character over the years that it’s practically impossible to define him in any specific way. “The Hulk” has at different times been stupid, intelligent, angry, incapable of speech, eloquent, savage, noble, a She-Hulk, Korean-American, red, gray, as old as eons, and even once had a run as a mob-loving casino security guard. Really. So when you pull the idea of the character back for common assumptions, you realize that the Hulk is simply a vehicle for exploring different dualities. With Bixby, it was about the curse of power, seeing the Hulk as a monstrosity operating against our most humble and good-natured selves. But for other Hulks? It could be a chance to explore the destructive mindset of barbarism, or the controlling mixed messages of the patriarchy, or even exploring feelings of inadequacy in comparison to one Freddie Prinze Jr. This also really happened, and it was actually written in pretty toxic fashion. But with infinite Hulks to choose from, how should he be adapted into the movies? It’s no accident that we’ve seen some more careful, muted versions, but the translations have also come with a few errors in judgment. Ang Lee’s Hulk, 2003 Image: Universal Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo 4. The False Starts When viewed as a whole, Ang Lee’s film Hulk (2003) has its own stark duality. For it is a quiet, cerebral, and somber film about serious subjects, but it is also punctuated with some of the most bizarre and goofy choices I’ve ever seen in a modern blockbuster. When it was released, I don’t think it was disliked so much as people just weren’t sure what to do with it. But, like most mixed bags, I don’t think it gets enough credit for all the ways in which it’s actually good , starting with the way that Lee thoughtfully turns the Hulk’s characterization into a deeper metaphor for trauma. We meet our new Bruce Banner (played with sunken physicality by Eric Bana), the poster boy for adult males who can’t connect to their emotions. His disconnection is a coping mechanism, one deeply tied to a buried memory of his father trying to kill him and inadvertently killing his mother. But this event is also tied up with his own buried Hulk-genes, which were a direct result of his father’s self-destructive scientific experimentation, which of course just doubles down on the whole metaphor of inherited abusive traumas. So when the events of the current story serve to re-traumatize him, our Banner breaks from his unemotional exterior and the inner “hulk” (read: emotion/trauma) finally comes to the surface with destructive consequences. Yes, this is textbook psychology, but it’s also well-aimed and observed. Lee treats these subjects with the utmost seriousness, and it all cascades into an Oedipal battle with his father that invokes the notion of Greek gods in the heavens. It’s fascinating stuff on the cerebral level, but I’ll admit that the action in the film feels unclear in motivation. For instance, the tank battle is fun and raucous, but there’s also the weird mutant poodle battle, not to mention the freeze-framed and embossed Josh Lucas exploding into the camera. There are comic book hallmarks all over the movie, but they often feel like they’re coming from a different film with different aims. I can’t help but feel like Nick Nolte’s off-kilter, gonzo performance makes the aforementioned battle of the gods feel just as confused as everything else. But please understand I’m not talking about mere changes in tone, which can shift as much as it wants. I’m talking about dramatic objective . Where the old TV series felt laser-focused in understanding what it wanted out of a given Hulk altercation, I never felt quite sure what the Hulk sequences in this film were after in terms of characterization or rooting interest. Ultimately, I really like Lee’s film in terms of thematic ambition and find its goofy choices oddly fascinating, but I recognize how underwhelming it is as a cathartic blockbuster. In other words, I fully grok why it might not be a great Incredible Hulk movie. So when the MCU came in to take over the character, I understand why they sought to correct that charge. For starters, they leaned heavily into the references and signifiers of the old TV show and comics. From the lonely man to the purple pants to Lou Ferrigno himself, The Incredible Hulk (2008) is dead set on reminding you that this film is grounded in the popular roots of the character as it sets him up for the bigger world of Tony Stark and super-soldier serums. But perhaps the best quality of the film is that it wants to make the Hulking-out fun and clear and properly motivated. It wants smashes and slams and a whole lot of Hulk make bad guy go squish! All in all, the populist aims make sense and work as needed. But unlike the bottled magic of the combo of Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau in the first Iron Man , this pairing results in a comparative thud. Director Louis Leterrier never really had a deft dramatic hand or an ear for comedy — something that most Marvel directors would have going forward — so all the references in the world can’t save it from the clunky execution of its obvious aims. But the bigger problem is actually in their choice of Banner. Edward Norton is talented, but if you’re going to try and give a Bixby-like affectation of the decent man at the center of the film, you really, truly need a Bixby-like figure. And Norton has never been that, for all his other gifts. Luckily, the third time’s the charm. The Hulk in Avengers: Infinity War Source Image: Marvel Studios | Photo illustration: James Bareham/Polygon 5. Where the Huffalo Roams Make no mistake about it: The Hulk’s appearance in The Avengers (2012) is a damn coup. Mark Ruffalo shuffled into an established cast as the first actor to capture, at the very least, the gentle humility of Bixby. But Ruffalo also gets to double down on the “aw shucks” goofball aura that he exudes so naturally. And watching him bounce off Downey Jr., Evans, and Hemsworth proved exactly why he was the perfect fit for both the group and the MCU’s version of the Hulk stories. The big green guy roars into the third act after a lot of table-setting and is given spectacular moment after moment, from the Loki smash to the sucker punch to the catch, all of which were captured in endlessly GIF-able moments that endeared the character to a new generation of fans. Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures Better yet, the movie sneakily said something about the grand Hulk duality. While some were confused by the fact that the film didn’t take time to outright explain it afterward, the “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry” line reflects what Banner has learned about his relationship to anger. Chiefly, that anger can throw us into blind, destructive rage — as it does for him earlier in the film — but anger can also be a feeling we channel from inside ourselves as a useful, powerful force. “Healthy anger,” as it’s often described in therapy, is the willingness to fight for self and what’s right, a lovely little duality within the duality. But the question coming out of that film was a question that all the original Avengers faced: Where does their arc go from here? Related The 22 Marvel movies of the MCU Infinity Saga, ranked The answer is more personal and relationship-driven, as our Banner/Hulk gets a lot of emotional space to explore in Avengers: Age of Ultron . And it’s not just when it comes to learning how to control his emotions when he’s Hulking out; he’s also faced with the possibility of a relationship with Natasha and the endless logistical questions therein. In short, he’s scared about getting close because he’s scared of hurting people. Which makes his choice to take the jet and fly far away from her both powerful and tragic. There’s so much I love in the subtle execution of that scene, particularly the way Hulk lets that childlike bashfulness and fear peek out for a moment as he turns to withdrawn sadness. But where does a fearful decision take us? Particularly one that takes us away from those we love and secretly want to run toward, not away from? On a bender, of course. Hulk’s appearance in Thor: Ragnarok is one long approximation of the fallout of that decision. He’s gone full Hulk-mode 24/7 on a gladiatorial planet and drunkenly embraced the ego that comes with his raw physical strength. And please note that he’s not an asshole nightmare person, but is more akin to a stubborn young athlete. And when he finally comes back to Banner, so to speak, he’s hitting that confusing, sobering wall at the end of his decisions. Banner finds himself terrified that he let Hulk have control for literal years. Now, honestly I’m not really sure the problem is fully addressed by the end of the film, but he does at least pull out all the Hulk stops again for one more big, fun moment in the climax. But it all brings us to Infinity War , which now inherits Hulk’s story and the responsibilities that come with it. To be frank, there’s not a lot going on in terms of characterization, arcs, or even relationships in this movie. Everyone is in such a rush to ping-pong about into different alliances and situations as Thanos goes on his mad quest that they aren’t really given enough space to explore their inner lives. Each character barely has time to react to what’s going on, much less process it and grow. But we do get a small snippet of change at the beginning of the film when Hulk is beaten handily by Thanos. This causes Banner to effectively “go impotent” and fail to turn into the Hulk when necessary. Is this due to him being emasculated by the stronger enemy? Is this about the deeper fears that the toughest men in the universe have underneath their burly exteriors? Oddly enough, the Russos chimed in on the subject after the release of the film and claimed that the Hulk was just “tired of playing hero to Bruce Banner.” It’s an interesting conflict for sure, but the obvious problem is that it’s not explored whatsoever within the text of the movie. This is problematic for two reasons. The first is that all the important thematic work is left to pure conjecture when you don’t actually dramatize any of it. But the questions at the heart of this conflict are everything: What do we want to say about Banner’s journey after all this? What is the “endgame” for our beloved character? Who is the Hulk? Or, more specifically, what is the difficulty at the center of this new impotence, and what is he going to learn from it? The second problem with not addressing this conflict is that it prevents us, the viewers, from truly answering any of it, because we simply have to wait until we get more from the next film. When I said I was disappointed that Infinity War didn’t address this question in any larger way during the running time, I was met with the far too familiar chorus of MCU fans who said that I wasn’t being fair, and the creative team at Disney would likely deal with it in the next movie. Aside from the obvious bright spots like Black Panther , I’ve had some trouble with the endless wheel-spinning and half-hearted lip-service toward change that we’ve seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At some point, these problems and conflicts are going to have to be addressed somewhere if the stakes are to feel high enough to matter. 6. Which brings us to Endgame . The film does indeed address the impotence conflict of Hulk’s character from the last film, but they do so in a way that’s … troubling to me. Because we simply cut to him as this new Banner-speaking “Huffalo,” and everything’s fine. It’s almost as if you can hear the storytellers say, “Don’t worry folks! He solved it all! And he did it off-screen! A few lines of lip-service should do the trick, and besides, who cares? This new Hulk is dabbing and funny and everything’s fine, just enjoy it!” To be clear, I do think that the new Huffalo is enjoyable as all hell. The character is funny, charming, and something we haven’t really seen before in these films. But my jaw was on the ground when Endgame finished, because the Hulk character has literally nothing to do on any emotional level for most of the running time. He’s just … there. Sure, you can throw as many lines like “I was born to do this” when Hulk reaches for the Infinity Gauntlet as you want, but you can’t tell me that this is part of a psychological journey that was dramatized in the actual story we’ve seen so far. It’s just a convenient moment of seeming destiny. It would have been so much more interesting to have Hulk’s final “Huffalo Catharsis” come through the dramatized action of the story and not part of an obligatory action. Seriously, imagine how much fun these moments would have been in an act of discovery for the audience, much like the joy of getting to see Cap finally wield Thor’s hammer. But instead, his “endgame” happened between movies, and after that point he was just there to explain things and be physically strong and resilient when necessary. You can shout the logic of “hey, it was five years later!” at me all you want, but you shouldn’t save the most important parts of a character’s arc for the time between films. You shouldn’t hand-wave solutions that were set up by multiple films’ worth of struggle. And yet we have to acknowledge that’s exactly what the MCU does in its endless game of Calvinball . The creative team had two whole movies to really explore the fallout of Banner’s relationship with Natasha, and what did they do? Nothing. There was an awkward hello and then no other conversation. Anger can also be a feeling we channel from inside ourselves as a useful, powerful force The only other recognition of that entire relationship came from Hulk being the most physically upset when they find out that Natasha died. This is exactly what I mean when I talk about the dramatic lip-service of the latest films and the way the stories coast off established dynamics without having the willingness to either change them or dig deeper into what they mean. Even Natasha’s sacrificial choice felt hollow. She can shout her explanations in the moment all she wants, but there was literally no buildup to make us feel like that choice was in play beforehand. It is just one of many undermining thematic choices of Endgame , from the problematic 180-degree reversal on Thor’s thematic journey, to the troubling timey-wimey resets of Phase-One Loki and Gamora, to Bucky having absolutely nothing to do, which helps prove how little he made sense as the MCU’s Helen of Troy . Even Tony and Cap’s final scenes can’t help but come to mind. Were they executed beautifully? Yup! Did they give us the emotional fireworks we always wanted? You betcha! But I can’t help but point out how, emotionally speaking, both of these endings could have come right at the end of Phase One without many other changes. And that leaves me wondering just what the heck has been the point of these last few phases, where everything felt like a half-hearted conflict delay. Ultimately, the MCU gave the Hulk the worst of the half-hearted treatments. The new Huffalo is fun, funny, and, dare I say it, strangely attractive (fight me!). But the problem is that his final arc just became another undramatized lie. And when I think about that promise of the first Avengers movie? The promise of his deeper relationships that followed? When I think about the creative ways the merged Hulks were explored in the comics? Even when I look back at Ang Lee’s flawed but purposeful version? And most of all, when I think about the beautiful integrity of Bill Bixby that was fundamental to the character’s heroism and dramatic crux? Well, I can’t help but feel like the MCU let the point of Hulk’s overall story completely get away from them. “They’ll address it in the next one!” you might say. But we’ve been down this road before. And I argue now what I’ve argued then: that all our stories have to mean something deep to us in the moment. Because our lives are filled with so many crushing dualities and shortcomings that we need to find meaningful apotheosis. And the critical lessons of empathy that we need to learn to get there? They’re created in shared experience, both through witnessing and being witnessed. Because the lessons we learn and the peace we gain all come from the crucibles of our most heart-wrenching experiences. They don’t happen off-screen. <3 HULK
The Image Returns: a review of George Handley, AMERICAN FORK
May 14, 2019 by Guest 1 Comment
Thanks to friend of BCC James Egan for this thoughtful review.
Novels present unreal worlds that, despite their fictions, offer implicit visions of the reality we inhabit as readers. We sit in judgment of these visions. We expect novelists, to borrow a phrase from the literary theorist Northrop Frye, to tell us “not what happened, but happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place.” Consequently, as the critic James Wood writes, “Fiction moves in the shadow of doubt, knows itself to be a true lie, knows that any moment it might fail to make its case.” We know this as readers, and we get puzzled, curious, or even angry if a novel violates our sense of “what happens.”
But fiction also has a way of reminding us of our lack of authority to make anything more than a provisional judgment concerning Reality. Good novels foreground points-of-view and make obvious our inherently limited, personal perspectives. So even while we sense our freedom to object to a novel’s representation of how things really are, we also sense our inability to render a final judgment. This dynamic, in my view, makes fiction an especially fruitful form for theologians, since their enterprise inevitably involves, if not always explicitly, both sermonizing and speculation.
It isn’t much of a surprise, then, that I was excited to pick up George Handley’s recent novel, American Fork . The book would not exist without its interest in theology, though it isn’t nauseating or narrow in its engagement with religious ideas. It has a few weaknesses common to first novels (e.g., occasionally clunky and overwrought dialogue), but it also has some wonderful strengths (e.g., subtle shifts in symbols and slow, surprising revelations of character). As I see it, though, the book’s most notable feature is that, unlike any novel of which I am aware, it explores compelling possibilities of theology rooted in the Latter-day Saint Temple.
The story arises out of the relationship between an aging, God-haunted botanist and a young artist with a steadfast, independent faith. Both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though the artist, Alba Powell, is earnestly engaged while the botanist, Zachary Harker, is dissenting and disaffected. These differences catalyze a yearning in each that leads to healing of deep wounds and redemption of seemingly unbearable pasts. Their unlikely and mutually transformative relationship explores various concerns relating to ecology, gender, and even international relations. But what gripped me most was the way the novel uses their story to invite and guide reflection on what strikes me as the question concerning heaven: What kind of afterlife could possibly redeem the unspeakable suffering that is the history of our earth?
The novel doesn’t straightforwardly present transcendent realms as other works of Mormon literature have done (e.g., Steven Peck’s A Short Stay In Hell, Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon , or Sheldon Lawrence’s Hearts of the Fathers ). But its characters are continually in search of hope, healing, and redemption, and through their longings, the novel continually suggests that the only heaven that might save them is one in which their stories of loss and pain are woven together, transformed, and remembered as sacred.
I don’t mean that the novel points toward a redemption in which suffering is continually re-imagined, experienced again, obsessed over. It doesn’t. The promise of healing is alive in its cosmos. But American Fork seems quite clear on this point: heaven cannot redeem its inhabitants if it only ends their personal pain and heals individual wounds. Wonderful as these goods may be, they are not only insufficient to redeem unjustifiable suffering, but they do not adequately account for the facts of human identity, history, and community. If we are to be saved, history and community must be saved, too. Without these, we would lose ourselves entirely, and a heaven without them would dishonor, even mock, the suffering of mortality, even if all future suffering were put to an end. Moreover, what the novel once calls “bloodied memories” lurk at the depths of things, threatening to topple whatever peace and prosperity the mightiest afterlife could offer.
The novel hints at this outlook from its first sentence: “The image returned” (1). That image—one from Alba’s family history—is initially vague and gets sharpened as the story unfolds. But it will not lie dormant, and neither will images from Mr. Harker’s past. Each character yearns for a redemption that will not bury these images, but face them without fantasy or fear.
Alba learns that this kind of redemption cannot be willed with human effort and bravery, however necessary those virtues are, and in the process, she learns to see and share Mr. Harker’s inexpressible pain. As their friendship develops and she reflects more on her own family’s frightening history, she begins to sense that his anger and cynicism are the shields he uses to fight away overwhelming loneliness and regret. Referencing her mother’s shame-filled silence about her father’s past, she tells Mr. Harker, “I have inherited a terror of the void, the silence and refusal to share. These are great sins, you know” (309).
But they are understandable sins, as she sees with increasing clarity on her journey to Chile, her parents’ homeland. In searching for answers to questions about her family’s past, she confronts new, seemingly unanswerable questions about nations and power and death, and discovers why it is tempting to pretend that the past can be buried forever. “People here worry,” she is told, “that if we get too serious about unearthing the sins of the Pinochet dictatorship, we will ruin our chances for a civil society, that we will go back to fighting the same battles as before, continually living in a divided world of competing and irreconcilable worldviews” (162). She becomes acquainted with the suffering that informs this fear and begins to recognize that we are all afraid, in one way or another, that the terrors of the past will forever haunt the future.
Mr. Harker deals with this fear by trying to separate himself from history and community. He protects himself with protest, especially against his Mormon tradition. But, as Alba recognizes early in their relationship, his cynicism is belied by his passion about his people and love for creation, which also reveals his yearning, even hope, for redemption. Indeed, this love animates the book project that brings Alba into his life. He hires her to paint pictures for a guide to wildflowers he is writing, but as he says, “This book is far more than a guide to wildflowers, it’s going to be the Bible of the wild to bring about the great reconciliation” (141). There is obviously something ridiculous about his belief in the book. (And I can’t help noting here that the Book of Mormon is an interesting comparison.) But Alba sees through the absurdity to something noble and redemptive, and she works to bring it to life.
I think that something , in the world of Handley’s novel, is a divine love that is fearless of the past, willing to remember the violence of evolutionary biology and the horrors of human history without shrinking, willing to mourn our shared experience, to celebrate it, to hold it sacred—even without justification. To quote from the novel, “Stubborn belief and creative acts of commemoration as a way to answer the oblivion to which biology wants to condemn us” (117).
There are elements of Latter-day Saint scripture and the broader Mormon tradition that give rise to this vision of the world . But unlike any Mormon novel I’ve read, American Fork takes the Temple as the animating force behind its theology. These roots are captured concisely in a thought that comes to Alba while she reflects on her experiences in Chile: “To rearrange and expand the bonds of biology and remake family in the image of true community is to confront the reality of human pain” (252). But they are revealed more expressly and eloquently in this longer passage (Alba’s thoughts once again), which is perhaps my favorite of the book:
She imagined herself in the Santiago Temple watching while some elderly and gentle temple worker stood in for her father. It wouldn’t matter who it was—any man’s living old bones would do, because that was the beauty of it. An absence wouldn’t have to signify a loss. Quite the opposite. The absence marked by an adopted presence promised reunion, restitution. All she needed was someone who out of love for the unknown would become Adam again and in faith and persistence in the face of mystery and opposition and death would walk out of the garden and into this beautiful, fallen world and wait on the Lord until his presence returned (118).
On its own, I think this passage should be enough to recommend the book. But whether or not you attend the Temple or believe in religious claims relating to it, I think you’ll find that the theology of American Fork is provocative and insightful in its perception of our deepest human needs and yearnings. Go get yourself a copy.
Beyond Rent: How to Unlock Other Benefits of Revenue Management
Property Management Insider is brought to you by RealPage. Learn more. Beyond Rent: How to Unlock Other Benefits of Revenue Management By Tim Blackwell | May 14, 2019
Revenue management isn’t just about establishing rent prices in multifamily housing. Many apartment operators believe that industry solutions are sort of a one-trick pony – they set rent and are limited to certain classes and leasing verticals.
Not true, according to industry experts.
Upwards of a quarter of the multifamily industry uses revenue management tools, and they do far more than establish rent in today’s market. They also aren’t limited to certain apartment classes, as some in the industry believe.
The systematic approach – an application of disciplined analytics that balances supply and demand to maximize revenue growth – works in all rental segments, including student housing, and establishes rent based on investment strategy given the place and time in the market.
“There is a huge difference between a rent-setting tool and revenue management,” Industry Principal Andrew Bowen said recently in the RealPage webcast, “Beyond Rent: Unlock Other Benefits of Revenue Management.” “Revenue management moves past rent setting tools and truly optimizes the rent presented to a prospect on the new lease side and current resident on the renewal side. It systemically prioritizes the investment strategy and assures that it is at the core at every pricing decision we make. Rent-setting tools just don’t have that capability.” The hidden advantages of revenue management
The beauty of the right revenue management system is what’s within. Along with Industry Principal David Polewchak, Bowen outlined a handful of the meaningful benefits that the analytical approach based on lease transaction data generates beyond just a rent price.
The primary hidden advantage of a revenue management system is ensuring a property’s or portfolio’s investment strategy is at the heart of every pricing decision made on an asset. The tool also provides transparency into internal and external performance through market knowledge, and effective management of the lease expiration process to maintain more consistent occupancy.
Bowen is particularly fond of the people-friendly nature of a revenue management system. Automatically setting a revenue-neutral price not only removes the potential for human error, it also puts the leasing agent and prospective resident on equal ground. The solution enables the leasing agent to be more accommodating during lease transactions, which encourages the renter to sign.
“When implemented and trained well, the revenue management leasing process is an incredibly customer-focused way of selling,” he said. “From the prospect side, we have revenue-neutral option for every available combination of apartment, move-in and lease term. Prospects have an opportunity to get exactly what they want.”
And leasing agents rarely have to say no, an answer that often kills deals.
“Since we have multiple options, it’s easier for a leasing professional to overcome that dreaded price objection without having to lean on concession-based selling,” Bowen added. “It empowers the leasing professional to lease, not run back and forth to the community manager’s office looking for the latest deal.” Getting lease expirations right
Revenue management balances a number of factors, including available types of apartments, market rents, seasonality and lease term. Each price is individually optimized to be the best for all options presented, Polewchak said.
That’s especially necessary when managing lease expirations, which, when done manually, can be tedious and not deliver the needed results.
It’s important to maximize revenue but equally important to position all expirations to expire in the best possible months by alignment of supply and demand, the cornerstone of revenue management in achieving optimal rent.
“Incorporating the appropriate statistics and data to determine the correct amount of lease expirations for every month then aligns with the anticipated demand for that specific month,” Polewchak said. “Better yet, lease expiration incorporates seasonality, specific to your assets, which enables insights specific to where you’re operating.”
Details provide greater visibility Getting lease expirations wrong can have a huge impact on revenue, Polewchak said. Overbooking can result in operational constraints but demand constraints. With under-booking demand realization and revenue is negatively affected. Achieving increased compliance and new savings opportunities
But there are more benefits for what revenue management can do for a property or portfolio.
Bowen emphasizes that revenue management works with all asset classes, all strategies and all markets, from lease-ups to renewals. It’s also distinctly different than rent-setting tools and provides performance transparency and data integrity.
“There’s so much more to it than setting rent.”
Learn more about unlocking benefits of revenue management. Watch the free on-demand webcast!
Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC
Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists. Free Email Updates
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