Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer in Canadia - Or Some Differences Between America and Canada

Living in Canada as an American is a pretty interesting proposition. On the surface, we're two of the most similar cultures on planet earth. But there are moments when I am reminded that we are just different. Existentially, we're slightly out of alignment...

Really - this happened to me

And the whole hockey thing is just... well...


But mostly, Canada is like living in America without a lot of the crazy. Canadians ain't got time for the crazy. Do you see them sitting around having a budget crisis every month?


And while winter was dark and rainy and sometimes just the worst, summer in Vancouver makes it all worth it. The sun comes up at 5 and goes down at 10 and every day looks like this:








Basically, it's kind of paradise here. Everyone spends as much time as they can soaking up Vitamin D to sustain them for the rest of the year, enjoying the beaches and mountains, and generally rejoicing in not having to carry an umbrella with them wherever they go.

Sometimes people ask me whether I miss living in America and I'm like



But I need to temper that - I miss Knoxville when I'm in Vancouver. I miss Vancouver when I'm in Knoxville. It's hard to be invested in two places at once, because you're always being pulled away from where you are. But at the end of the day, that's such a blessing. It's such a blessing that I feel invested in my life so fully, which I frankly wasn't when living in DC. A lot of that has to do with the season I was in and my vocational situation. Sometimes when I look back at where I was this time last year, I kind of freak out.



Yet, mostly, I am trying to enjoy this time of life, where things are challenging but invigorating. And basking in such a gorgeous summer makes that enjoyment pretty easy. I'll always be an American at heart - but for now, I'm loving being a faux-nadian.



Friday, July 26, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.15 and 1.16 (Recaps)

Episode 1.15: "The One with the Stoned Guy"

Fantabulous episode on the docket this week! Aside from Ross' subplot (which involves him whispering "vulva" into Jan from The Office's ear), we have 2 amazing stories: Chandler's search for vocational meaning and Monica's attempts to impress the eponymous Stoned Guy.

Chandler gets promoted at his "temporary" job - so he quits to maintain his personal integrity. I have so been there. And then he discovers that he is most suited to do the job he just quit to maintain his personal integrity. And then he discovers that everyone as a price and ends up right back at the job that he quit to maintain his personal integrity. It's a very relatable dilemma, one that every person in their mid-20s has to face: is my job actually my career? And if it is... am I okay with that? Chandler, like so many of us, realizes that his corporate job is the closest thing he has to answer and decides to just go with it. And ends the episode with one of his immortal lines... "Yes, Fran, I know what time it is..."


Then we have The Stoned Guy. Jon Lovitz more or less walks away with the episode once he enters Monica's apartment as her high potential employer. There is some minor drama between Monica and Rachel beforehand about Monica not believing in Rachel's waitressing skills. Yawn. All of that flies out of my head as soon as The Stone Guy starts flinging gummy bears around and repeating "Tartlets."Plus, he gave me the line that, to this day, I exclaim whenever I encounter a particularly tasty dish.



Indeed, sir. Indeed.

All in all, this is one of the top 3 episodes of the season, hands down.

Too much pot and existential angst this week to get down to business...


The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: IIII
Joey: III
Chandler: II
Ross: I

Best line (besides basically every one that Jon Lovitz says):

"I was the James Mischner of dirty talk" - Ross

Episode 1.16: "The One with Two Parts"

This is a long episode, one full of highs and lows. I mean, any episode with Mr. Heckles is pretty okay in my book.


I don't love the whole tortured analogy of Marcel as Ross' training baby, though it does allow Mr. Gellar to make an appearance and comment on sundried tomatoes. Plus, his offer to take Ross to Williamsburg to make up for not connecting with him as a kid is adorable. Jack! Why can't you be in every show?

There also some great guest spots as NBC cross-promoted its New York based shows. Helen Hunt from Mad About You shows up at the coffee house and George Clooney (who I kind of forgot was this gorgeous) is "Monica's" doctor in the ER hospital. When Rachel goes to the hospital and convinces Monica to commit insurance fraud, hijinks ensue! As the girls switch identities and end up dishing on each other, we learn more and more about the friends, culminating in the revelation that "I use my breasts to get attention." "We both do that!"

What makes this episode sing is the drama that goes down between Phoebe and Joey when he starts dating her identical twin, Ursula. It's a somewhat expected plot line - Joey is inexplicably drawn to the one person that would hurt Phoebe the most. What makes it transcend typical sitcom obstacles is that it elicits from Phoebe the first act of genuinely costly friendship on the show. She puts her own relationship with Joey on the line to give him closure. In the process, we see how deeply bonded these two are and how that bond will keep them from acting on their obvious chemistry. In later seasons, Chandler and Monica were able to move beyond friendship because their friendship hadn't deepened to the relational level that made having something more too risky. Joey, however, has that level of friendship with each member of the group and thus can't act on any romantic feelings that he might develop for the girls. We see that with Rachel later on...

Three hook-ups this week: Joey & Ursula, Rachel & Billy Dreskin, and Chandler & Nina. 

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: V
Joey: IIII
Chandler: III
Ross: I

Best line:

"That was just Monica - she's drunk again." - "Rachel"

And last but not least, see the AV Club's recap and here

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.12, 1.13, and 1.14 (Recap)

Episode 1.12: "The One with the Dozen Lasagnas"

At last, Paolo "Crap Weasel" Jerkface meets his demise! Sure, I know he's all "hot" and what not...



But is he really? He looks like he may have forgotten to take a shower that  year. And Rachel can't have an actual conversation with him except the whole insipid "Poke-a-Nose" thing. Yeesh. Not that we were ever going to like Paolo, but he's exit via the Phoebe ass groping makes him particularly odious. The only silver lining is that we get some real Phoebe/Rachel bonding for the first time. Will Rachel blame Phoebe? It's possible - but to watch them instead blame themselves and then get properly angry with the Crap Weasel feels real and the girls come out the other end much closer than they were at the beginning of the episode. Also, this furthers one of the show's great themes: Rachel getting cheated on. First Barry, now Paolo, next Ross (sorry Ross, that really was your fault... but we'll get there).

There's some fun business with Joey and Chandler getting the first fooseball table and bickering like a married couple - it also affords a glimpse of crazy competitive Monica, who will come out in full force to great comedic affect in years to come. Plus, there's the big gender reveal, where the whole gang knows that Ross' baby is a boy and Rachel accidentally tells him. Rejoice!



That's the Friends way - silliness grounded in genuine pathos.

Also, the intro singalong of "The Odd Couple" theme at the beginning is adorable and endearing - much better than an extended metaphor about penises.

No additional hook-ups this week. Perhaps the "Sexysex Hypothesis" will be disproved - it's been a while since we learned of a new sexual partner.

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: V
Phoebe: IIII
Rachel: II
Joey: II
Chandler: II
Ross: I

Best line:

"And then his hands weren't the problem anymore... Oh, boy scouts could have camped under there." - Phoebe (okay, so not all the penis jokes are bad...)

Episode 1.13: "The One with the Boobies"

Most of this episode is not that great. I don't love the tortured Joey-as-his-parents'-parent metaphor when he discovers his dad is fooling around. The accidental naked plot is light hearted and fun, but insubstantial. Though it does allow Ross to offer the most mature solution possible to the problem: "We're all adults here. Since you saw her boobies, I think you're going to have to show her your pee-pee." Clearly.

What is way more fun is Phoebe's boyfriend, Roger the Worst Psychiatrist! I sincerely mourn the fact that they never had Fisher Stevens back as a guest star. The way he sees through each of their facades ("Only child, right? Parents divorced before you hit puberty?") and calls them out on it is sooo satisfying. Plus, it has the added bonus of allowing the show to acknowledge the characters' annoying habits while still keeping you on their side. I mean, yeah, Rachel is spoiled but who is this guy to belittle her feeling of deprivation over the Weebles?

Some movement at last! Phoebe hits a double with the Puppet Guy and Roger the Worst Psychiatrist and pulls into the leave


The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VI
Monica: V
Rachel: II
Joey: II
Chandler: II
Ross: I

Best line:

"With your stupid big cups, which I'm sorry, might as well have nipples on them!" - Roger the Worst Psychiatrist

"I wouldn't want to be there when the laughter stops." - Roger the Worst Psychiatrist

"Monica, easy on those cookies there. They're just food, they're not love." - Roger the Worst Pyschiatrist

Episode 1.14: "The One with the Candy Hearts"

This episode has 2 shining moments (aside from the Janice spotting, which is always a highlight): the scene between Ross and Carol and hearing about the girls' past sexual exploits.

First, the Ross/Carol kiss scene is great for many reasons. One, the lovely Jane Sibbett is now in the role and brings a grounded reality to their relationship that just works. Two, we see Ross being able to look past his pain and reach out to Carol, who has seriously wounded him... bringing out a wonderfully sweet side of him in the process. Three, it's finally clear just how much love there is between these two. It's not like Carol stopped loving Ross - it's clear, to me at least, that if she had never figured out she was a lesbian, they could have had a very happy if generally platonic life together. It's satisfying to see her as a more fully realized character with complex motivations. Finally, I think this kiss is another step that the writers need Ross to take before he can actually go after Rachel. He has closure - the door between him and Carol is really shut, which allows him to move on with his life and treat both Carol and Susan with less bitterness. 

And in the great hook-up round-up, we find the girls getting biz-ay all over the place. Rachel & Pete Carnie, Rachel & Adam Ritter, Phoebe & the Click Name Guy, Monica & Howard the I-Win Guy, and Monica & Jerry the Sweater Guy. Also, Joey & the Whipped Cream Janice Friend. Girls are still on top at the end of the week. 

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Phoebe: VII
Monica: VII
Rachel: IIII
Joey: III
Chandler: II
Ross: I

And... here's a link to the AV Club's recaps

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friends Friday: See You Next Week

This week is just one of those weeks - ramping down one class's reading and ramping up the reading for my classes next week. 

Thus, I'm taking a week off from Friends Friday. See you next Friday!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friends Friday: Episodes 1.10 and 1.11

Episode 1.10: "The One With The Monkey"

So it has finally come. That dark day. That dark, dark day when someone decided that Ross should get a pet to have a weirdly sexualized codependent relationship with.



Yes, Marcel is here. ARGGHHHHHHH. Hate this. I hate, hate this plot line. There are exactly two good moments that result from this development, which we will address as they come up. But seriously - I'm with Monica on this. Why the hell has Ross procured a monkey as a pet? I get that they're trying to show that Ross is lonely and is thus primed to creepily attached to a non-human entity. I guess. It's weird and I never really understood why they went this way.

Aside from the tragic introduction of Marcel, this episode is one of my favorites from season 1. The premise is fun - it's New Year's Eve and despite what the culture tries to pawn off on us, New Year's is always a let down. This year, the Friends vow not to succumb to the hype and fly solo. Which... doesn't happen. Along the way, we see Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe sporting great dresses (no, seriously - it's the height of 90s chic!), Ross with way too much hair product, Janice as Chandler's date (who is much crazier than the last time we saw her), Rachel getting attacked for no apparent reason by some crazy lady who wants her taxi, and Joey and Chandler kissing at midnight.

The real gem of this episode, though, is Hank Azaria as the bashful love of Phoebe's life. There is real emotion in this plot line and we see a beautiful sweet side of Phoebe emerge. But not before she goes all mean Phoebe on Azaria's ass when he interrupts one of her 13 songs about her mother's suicide ("with eyes so bewitchin'/how was I supposed to know that my mom was dead in the kitchen?"). Fantabulous!

More sex is had this week - Phoebe & David the Science Guy and Monica & Fun Bobby.

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: V
Phoebe: IIII
Rachel: II
Joey: II
Chandler: II
Ross: I

Best line:

"Sorry, that's 'pathet' which is Sanskrit for really cool way to live." - Ross on roommates

Episode 1.11: "The One with Mrs. Bing"

This is an episode of great highs and lows for me. Let's get the negative out of the way first - the whole Monica/Phoebe love for guy in coma storyline is absurd. And unfunny. And not worth any more words. Moving on...

The highlight of this episode is Mrs. Bing - Nora Bing, that is, famous steamy romance writer. Just the fact that Chandler's mom has a bestselling novel called Mistress Bitch tells you all you need to know about Chandler's formative years. I'm bummed that they didn't have Nora back more in the series, as she has excellent chemistry with Matthew Perry specifically, but also with the rest of the cast. 

She gets a great line to Ross about how Paolo is just a secondary character thrown in to complicate the plot. Ross is the hero. Which is a great thing to say to someone who is love lorn, but also provides a nice meta moment for the show.

Nora also initiates a compelling engine for the show's drama - by kissing Ross and having Joey walk in on them, the relationships between the boys all go deeper. We see Joey's intensely (and loveably) loyal side, who insists that Ross has broken "the code" and must come clean to Chandler. Joey and Ross's relationship gets fleshed out as they negotiate the social politics of when/who should tell Chandler what went down. Ross and Chandler are given a greater sense of history, as Chandler's indignation is as much driven by Ross' understanding of Chandler and Nora's contentious past as it is by the deed itself. And Chandler and Joey's buddy-buddy bond is threatened by Joey's complicity in the silence ("Well, knowledge is a tricky thing... you see what happens when you break the code!")

Everything turns out in the end, and Chandler grows a little bit in his maturation process. A little bit.

No new sexy times this week, so Monica holds her lead. I'm starting to wonder when Joey's man-slut status is going to kick in for him to pull ahead. 

The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Monica: V
Phoebe: IIII
Rachel: II
Joey: II
Chandler: II
Ross: I

Best line:

"Nora - Mrs. Mom - Your Bing..." - Ross

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Books Like Whoa: The Warm Embrace of Jack Lewis

So it's my birthday. On my birthday, I try to cram the day full of things and people that I like best. And when it comes to books, there is nothing I like better than C.S. Lewis.



When I am feeling weary, and I want to rest in the surety of my faith, I rarely turn to the Bible. Maybe that's bad - surely it is. I turn to the Bible when I want to feel the love of God or to remember the depth of my condition or to rejoice in the hope of the kingdom.

But when I feel run down and like I don't know which way is up or down, I turn to C.S. Lewis. Probably because I loved Jack Lewis before I loved the Bible or God. I don't love him better, now that I can see that what I loved in him was God. But I loved him first. He was the first path that made me see what neither my conservative fundamentalist schooling nor my liberal mainline churching had shown me: that to love God was the most reasonable and difficult thing that would ever be demanded of me, and that I must rise to meet that demand.

He isn't perfect or anything. There are things that I have always questioned in him and now that I've had some theological training, there are areas I have better questions about. Yet he combines two things that I long so deeply to embody myself: a razor sharp mind alongside a truly humble heart. As he was deep in the midst of debates and writing his theological works, when he was still getting calls in the wake of his Time cover, he was also functionally a sick nurse, caring for an old woman with a decaying mind and an alcoholic brother. He collapsed from exhaustion. Yet in his recovery, he began to write the Narnia books. It is this life of self-giving love to his family, friends, and the world that call out from behind his words.

So many of his sentences are nearly perfect. Good sentences are clear. Great sentences couple clarity with beauty. As a writer, his sentences kindle envy and admiration in equal measures within me - you feel palpably that this is a man who loves words and revels in arranging them in their proper place.

Jack has something for me, no matter how I feel or where I'm at in my life...

When I want to smile, I read The Screwtape Letters.

When I need someone to hurt with me, I read A Grief Observed.

When I seek to grow in my relationships, I read The Four Loves.

When I forget why I ever got myself in this complicated mess of belief, I read Mere Christianity.

When I long for wisdom, I read The Great Divorce.

When I need to believe again, I read The Chronicles of Narnia.

When I'm looking for someone to share both in life's little nothings and momentous moments, I read his letters.

When I'm trying to remember what makes literature important, I read An Experiment in Criticism or On Stories or Of Other Worlds or The Discarded Image.

When I want to stand in awe of creation and its maker, I read The Weight of Glory.

And when I want to rest and lean into the literary embrace of the man who midwifed me into the faith, I read Letters to Malcolm.

C.S. Lewis is my "security blanket" author. Who is yours?