Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My New Job

(This is also sort of a by-request post, since my Aunt Robin asked me for these specifics.)

I got a job! At a library! With books!

It's a branch of the Madison Public Library, so it's not a huge library (for those of you familiar with the Hays Library: it's a little smaller than any one floor at Hays), but it seems to do brisk business.
It looks a little like it's in a strip mall, but it isn't.

(It's close to Monona, but not in Monona, and a few remarks by my coworkers have led me to develop a theory that there's a big rivalry between my library and the Monona library. I plan to investigate this further.)

It's only part-time (17 hours a week, spread over three days) but that's all I want for a while (for the duration of writing The Thesis That Never Ends), and there's apparently ample opportunity to pick up extra hours should I choose to.

I've only worked two hours so far, and it wasn't much like work anyway since I'm getting trained. I don't know many names of people yet, but they all seem super nice. And I haven't learned how to do much, but I do know how to check in books. With a bar code reader and everything!

My position is a "Library Page 2." According to the letter the city sent me when they offered me an interview, my duties "involve checking library materials in and out, registering customers for library cards, collecting fines and fees, and returning library materials to the shelves." It's a bunch of book shuffling and a bunch of customer service, but I think I'm going to be doing more of the former for right now. I'll work the check-out desk, but not for a while. (It can apparently get pretty crazy out there.) It's very busy, on-your-feet work, which I enjoy. You're tired at the end of the day, but it's a good tired.

I go back in for full shifts tomorrow and Friday, and I'm pretty excited. I work at a library! (With books!)
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Off-Season Football Post (by Request!)

Angela asked me for thoughts on this week's draft-related happenings and of course I have them, so here they are.

1: On Stephen McGee getting drafted in the 4th round:

I am very proud of young Stevie. So proud! During his senior season, it seemed like he wasn't going to get drafted at all. And sure, the fourth round isn't as glamorous as getting drafted the first day, but it's entirely respectable. And he was the fifth quarterback taken--only Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman (who I still think is going to be a bust), and Pat White were taken ahead of him.

While it's disappointing that I'll have to care about the Cowboys to some extent, it does warm my heart that Stevie and Tellus are reunited.

And it feels so good!

2. On Mike Leach saying, "I'm happy for Stephen McGee. The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did."

I'm annoyed, sure. (Although it's hard to tell who exactly he's insulting, even though it's clear he's insulting somebody.) Am I surprised? No. It's well established that Mike Leach says anything that pops into his head. I don't think this incident in particular will do much to hurt Leach's job-market stock. For one thing, it's part of a pattern (I really doubt it's the most outrageous thing he's ever said) and, frankly, that stock is already really low, as evinced by the failure of anyone to try to hire away a coach with such a good winning record.

Also, as this ESPN article insinuates, he's just bitter that Graham Harrell didn't get drafted at all. (And here's an article from CBS sports that doesn't insinuate anything, it just flat out lambastes Leach.) And you know what? It can't even be the "system quarterback" thing, where people believe a QB puts up misleadingly good stats just because of the system his coach runs. He must have done poorly at the combine too, because if draft status was only tied to college performance, you know who wouldn't have gotten drafted? Stephen McGee.

(But then again, the "system quarterback" thing clearly has some legs, at least as far as Leach's QBs go: "Kliff Kingsbury is in charge of quality control at the University of Houston. B.J. Symons is with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League and Sonny Cumbie was with the AFL's Los Angeles Avengers, a team that folded last week. And Cody Hodges is out of football." I mean, I don't know where Mark Ferris [shudder] is today, but still. Dang.)

It's a little odd that Crabtree didn't get drafted higher, but I think that was because A) he hurt his foot and B) just the way the draft played out--the first team that wanted a wide receiver was the Raiders, and they picked a less highly regarded guy because Al Davis is a crazy old coot. I'm not convinced it was a personal insult to Crabtree, but I could be wrong. (Oh, the idea of a burgeoning Leach-Mangini feud? [Leach: "Crabtree as a receiver has been more successful than that guy has been as a coach."] LOVE IT.)

3. It is still my hope that the Packers pick up (undrafted but very good) Aggie punter Justin Brantly.

It just is.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Sorry, Dudes

Hey, guys. You know I'd really like to write you up a Monday Monarch Moment today, but I am completely wiped out from writing not-fun history. I'll bring you your super-special Henry II monarch moment edition next Monday or, if I get ambitious, sometime this week. I promise it will be awesome.

As partial compensation, here's a story about a cat adopting a squirrel.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ethical Question

So, I'm in the library and there's a guy seven feet away from me who's taken two calls in four minutes. The question: how bad would it be to start chucking those tiny golf pencils (that they keep around for you to write down call numbers and such) at his head if he takes another one?
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Monday, April 20, 2009

And Now for Your Monday Monarch Moment

Stephen (1135-1154)

When Henry I died, he only had (as you may recall) one surviving legitimate child, and she was a she. Henry knew this was going to be a problem, so in 1126 he called his major nobles together and required them to swear a solemn oath of loyalty to his daughter Matilda. But when he died 11 years later, his nephew Stephen of Blois was like, "j/k!" and took the throne, and then Matilda was all, "Oh no he di'nt!"

The Empress Matilda (so titled because her first husband was Holy Roman Emperor) proved very unwilling to relinquish her claim, so what followed was a period of civil war so destructive that Stephen's reign is referred to as "The Anarchy" or, even better, "The Nineteen Year Winter." War raged between the forces of the two claimants; Stephen was captured and overthrown in early 1141, but since his wife (also named Matilda) arrived with reinforcements, he was back in power by Christmas. A compromise solution was eventually reached, less than a year before Stephen's death; after Stephen's son died, and the two sides agreed that Stephen would be succeeded by Matilda's son.

Surprisingly--you know, since he was a usurper and all--Stephen was pretty good-natured. This hurt his authority with his barons, who needed a strong leader to keep them under control. But it also led to the story of Stephen and young William Marshal. When Stephen and his forces were besieging John Marshal's castle in 1152, Stephen offered John a truce to try to negotiate. The king's price for the truce was that John had to hand over one of his sons as a hostage (like when you have to give a bartender your ID so he'll give you a set of pool balls). John chose his youngest son, William, and then promptly used Stephen's peace to get more fortifications to his castle.

Stephen's entourage urged him to hang William at once, but the king was unwilling to execute the child without giving his father a chance to save him by surrendering [the castle]. But John Marshal, having four sons and a fruitful wife, considered the youngest of his sons of far less value than a strong castle. He cheerfully told the king's messenger that he cared little if William were hanged, for he had the anvils and hammers with which to forge still better sons. When he received this brutal reply, Stephen ordered his men to lead William to a convenient tree. Fearing that John planned a rescue, the king himself escorted the executioners with a strong force. William, who was only five or six years old, had no idea what this solemn parade portended. When he saw [the Earl of Arundel] twirling a most enticing javelin, he asked him for the weapon. This reminder of William's youth and innocence was too much for King Stephen's resolution, and taking the boy in his arms, he carried him back to the camp. A little later some of the royalists had the ingenious idea of throwing William over the castle walls from a siege engine, but Stephen vetoed that scheme as well. He had decided to spare his young prisoner.

For some two months William was the guest of King Stephen while the royal army lay before Newbury. One day as the king sat in a tent strewn with varicolored flowers William wandered about picking plantains. When the boy had gathered a fair number he asked the king to play "knights" with him. Each of them would take a "knight" or plantain, and strike it against the one held by the other. The victory would go to the player who with his knight struck off the clump of leaves that represented the head of his opponent's champion. When Stephen readily agreed to play, William gave him a bunch of plantains and asked him to decide who should strike first. The amiable king gave William the first blow with the result that the royal champion lost his head.
S. Painter, William Marshal, 1933, via The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes

I mention the year because I don't want you to get all excited--like I did--about some medieval chronicler unironically calling the plan to catapault a kid at the castle "ingenious."

Interestingly, William Marshal grew up to become Regent of England, the protector of Henry III in that king's childhood.

And this has been your Monday Monarch Moment.

Bonus! Monday Matilda Moment:

Matilda's biggest problem--arguably even greater than her being a woman--was her arrogance and haught
iness, which constantly turned possible allies (or at least neutrals) against her. She did not, however, lack determination or courage.

She twice had to escape from her enemies in colorful circumstances. In the first (in 1141), as reported in The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes, "she gained her freedom from Devizes disguised as a corpse, dressed in grave clothes and bound to a bier with ropes." More famous is her 1142 escape from Oxford Castle, which she may have begun by climbing down a rope from a window:

For, when food and every means of sustaining life were almost exhausted in the castle and the king was toiling with spirit to reduce it by force and siege-engines, very hard pressed as she was and altogether hopeless that help would come she left the castle by night, with three knights of ripe judgement to accompany her, and went about six miles on foot, by very great exertions on the part of herself and her companions, through the snow and ice (for all the ground was white with an extremely heavy fall of snow and there was a very thick crust of ice on the water). [Other chroniclers add that she wore a white robe to camoflauge her in the snow.] What was the evident sign of a miracle, she crossed dry-footed, without wetting her clothes at all, the very waters that had risen above the heads of the king and his men when they were going over to storm the town, and through the king's pickets . . . without anyone at all knowing except her companions . . . and unharmed, by very great effort reached the town of Wallingford during the night.
Gesta Stephani, via The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes

And that has been your Monday Matilda Moment.

(Major props to MacKenzie, who taught me how to do the html for the "read more" feature!)
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gay Marriage

Man, I've been wanting to write this post forever. I just hadn't because there's so much to address, and it's all so intertwined. But I finally thought of three items into which to break it down:

1. Gay people are not a problem

2. Gay marriage doesn't hurt anybody

3. In fact, it's a good thing

Gay people are not a problem
There are religious reasons to consider homosexual intercourse a sin. I personally don't find them super compelling, but I'm not going to argue that they aren't there. (I'm only going to address the Christian [specifically Protestant] ones, because I know much, much less about everybody else.)

I got help from this site, but there are three big areas of the Bible that spring to my mind. There are a few mentions in Leviticus and frankly, I am completely willing to dismiss this out of hand, since virtually all Christians pick and choose what they want from this section. I also don't keep kosher, do wear cotton/poly blends, and choose not to refrain from walking over rivers while menstruating. Most famously, there's the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sinners of Sodom are out for all-male intercourse, but they're also out for rape. Not good no matter which way you slice it. Then there are a few passages in the New Testament that condemn sodomites.

Again, I'm not saying the Bible is pro-gay by any means, but it's not a major theme. I personally think it's trumped by "Love thy neighbor as thyself." And, of course, "God is love" trumps and makes a sick joke out of "God hates fags."

In any case, how I translate my religious convictions into social practice is its own issue. Am I going to shun and despise divorcees? People who have pre-marital sex? No.

On a practical level, what would I want gays and lesbians to do differently? By all first-hand accounts, they don't get to choose their sexuality. I mean, I didn't. There was no moment in my life where I decided to like boys. I just did. Would I want gays and lesbians to deny who they know they are, and just marry a person of the opposite sex. Definitely not! What a disservice to the unknowing partner, to be married to someone who is only pretending to love them.

From what I understand, the leading answer in anti-homosexuality circles is to advocate for gay celibacy. I could never espouse that. When I was growing up, all (not all, but the most important thing) I ever wanted was to fall in love and get married. And then I did, and it's even better than I thought it would be. I will not tell anybody that because they feel "wrong," they have to live a life that, if I had it, I would think of as desolate and empty and lonely.

I believe that gay rights is the civil rights issue of this generation. In college, I had a professor tell me that I shouldn't compare anti-gay prejudice to racial prejudice because nobody can decide or change what race they are. I concede that people get to choose whether or not to partake in homosexual romantic/sexual relationships. However, people can also choose or change their religion, but that doesn't make religious prejudice acceptable.

Right now, gay people are widely accepted in entertainment--the gay best friend in a movie, the gay fashion mentor on a reality show, the gay performer who knocks his songs out of the park. But unless those entertainers are genuinely accepted by their audiences on a real-life level, those are all just 21st-Century minstrel shows.

Gay marriage doesn't hurt anybody
Some people claim that they're not against gay people, just gay marriage. I don't see how that could be true. Take the internet sensation "National Organization for Marriage" commercial. The commercial is not anti-gay marriage, it's anti-gay. There are three major statements made that allege that the legalization of gay marriage leads to loss of religious liberties, and they explain them on this page. (I got my rebuttals from this page.) First, there's "a California doctor who must choose between [her] faith and [her] job," because she refused to perform an in vitro procedure for a lesbian woman. There's nothing about gay marriage there. Also, I'd be curious to know if she would have performed the procedure for an unmarried straight woman.

Next, there's "I’m part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can’t support same-sex marriage." First of all, the government of New Jersey has not legalized gay marriage, just civil unions. And the group (not a church, a "church group") was punished by having their tax-exempt status revoked. Their tax-exempt status was based on their pavilion being used as public land. If not everybody can use it, it isn't public.

Finally, there's the "Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach [his] son that gay marriage is OK." It's been established that "the constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children and that teachings which contradict a parent's religious beliefs do not violate their First Amendment right to exercise their religion. [from the judge's verdict in the Massachusetts case]" A public school gets to teach that discrimination is wrong. He's constitutionally allowed to put his children in a religious school or to home school them if wants them sheltered from that point of view.

I don't buy if a government legalizes gay marriage, it will then force churches to perform gay marriages. Nobody who's against religious discrimination had forced the Catholic Church to marry non-Catholics, and nobody who's against gender discrimination has forced the Baptist Church to hire female pastors. There's no precedent for it.

I also dismiss the argument that gay marriage de-values or changes heterosexual marriage in any way. In fact, I find it hard to call it an "argument," because I have never heard it explained, only stated. A good contrast is polygamy: if same-sex marriage were legal, Neal and I would still be married and still have the same legal relationship to each other. If I wanted to marry a woman, I'd have to divorce him first--it would differ in no way from if I wanted to marry a different man. If polygamy were legal, Neal could go out and marry another woman while still being married to me. Even if he didn't, our legal relationship would be changed just because he could. If two guys down the street get married to each other, it doesn't change anything--not anything--about my marriage.

Basically, two unmarried adults of sound mind who want a formal, committed relationship with each other is not that broad a definition of marriage. Two guys who are in love and want to be together forever, maybe buy a house with a white picket fence, is only a little different than the same situation where the couple's chromosomes are different. Which brings me to my final point.

In fact, it's a good thing
You know what I buy from the anti-gay marriage people? That marriage is awesome and a building-block of our society. And if that is true, we should want more people to do it, not fewer.

Oh, and it does need to be "marriage," not "civil unions." The only thing a "civil union" means is: "yes, you can have the monetary and legal rights, but remember! You're not as good as straight people." And that's important because, well . . . point #1 again.
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British People: Adorable

If you follow YouTube sensations at all, you've probably already got this topic covered. Last week, Susan Boyle, who can be concisely described as a cat lady/spinster (and I believe--although I'm not British so I can't vouch for it 100%--she could also be described as "cheeky") appeared on Britain's Got Talent! and became an instant hit thanks to her unexpectedly great singing voice. Then this morning, I saw headlines that there's a new Susan Boyle: twelve-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, who is cuter than any button you have ever seen. Also, he sings real good.

For some reason, all the Susan Boyle videos have "embedding disabled by request." (I hate it when that happens.) So, you can click here to watch one that's just her on stage, or here to get a longer version with her backstage interviews (which include the tidbit that she's never been kissed).

And here's a link to Shaheen, now that his embedding has also been disabled.

A few observations:

1. I think Susan's singing has been oversold a bit. She's very, very, very good, yes, but from the headlines (and the judges' reactions), I would have expected "transcendent." The kid, though--that kid is good.

2. Sometimes I watch American reality TV and think that the editing/production is heavy-handed. As British reality TV proves, it ain't nothin'.

3. Could Piers' "compliments" to that lady be any more backhanded? I'm glad that it turns out she wasn't really listening, because he basically told her, "I am pleasantly surprised that someone as ugly as you has any redeeming value!" Shut up, Piers.

4. People in the American Idol crowd are stupid for thinking Simon is evil. Sure, he's acerbic, but most of the things he says, he says to be helpful. The Shaheen video is a perfect example: when the kid started singing that first song, I was like, "Oh, he's all right," but then after Simon told him to switch, he was amazing.

5. Blonde lady? Calm down.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Top Model Predictions

Well, we're down to the top six in Cycle 12: "These girls are so boring we're just picking short girls next time, because maybe there are some of those left that have any personality, at all!" (Um, Tyra and Mr. Jay were too tired to think of a more concise slogan.) Next week, they'll all be in Brazil, which is actually kind of interesting, since it's a country that is associated with fashion in any way. (I'm looking at you, The Netherlands.)

So here are my predictions for the order in which the final six will get sent back to America.

Sixth place:
Aminat. She's just gotten too many (deserved) bad reviews. She's got the looks, but she doesn't know what to do with them. She just doesn't understand Tyra's Guide to Owning Your Inner Fiereness. (Apparently, you've got to start girls on that young, like with Jedi.) Plus, she got 140% less awesome as soon as they took away her 'fro.

Fifth place:
Allison. (Nickname: Lemur Eyes.) Oh, the judges love those weird eyes. LOVE THEM. However, like Aminat, she just keeps doing the same old thing. Final five is when they usually do the go-sees (running around auditioning for designers in a foreign city--navigating by yourself) and, as the cycle's designated Weird Girl, Allison is destined to screw those up.

Fourth place:
Natalie. All cycle, this has been my reaction to hearing or reading the name "Natalie" in connection with this show: "Natalie? Natalie . . . . Oh, Natalie, riiiiiight." She's so boring and yet so unpleasant. I'm not sure how those go together, but Natalie (it's Natalie, right? Yeah, Natalie) pulls it off. Also, Paulina is underwhelmed by the planes of her face. (That sounds weird, but makes perfect sense in context.) By this week, I think the judges will be sick of her. They'll either give her the "resting on pretty" or "lack of personality" brush-off.

Third place:
Teyona. (Nickname: Wind Face.) I like Teyona. I think she's good. She's got great FierceFace. However, her smile is terrifying. (Terrifying.) I predict she'll easily make the top three, but I can't see her making it through the Cover Girl commercial and the Cover Girl photo shoot with that smile. Sorry, girl.

Second Place:
Fo. Aw, Fo's so cute. And she takes good pictures. I've even forgiven her for her dumb name. (Even though she gave that nickname to herself so yes, it is her fault.) She really pulls off that short hair, but she is shorter than the other girls. And when it comes down to the top two, they do a big runway show to decide the winner, and there's no way she can out-walk . . .

America's Next "Top" "Model":
Celia. Yeah, Celia looks old, y'all. She's twenty-five (so she is the oldest of the whole bunch) but from some angles she looks forty-five. But she's one of those people (like Annaleigh last year) who is just really good at doing all the Top Model junk. She's good at challenges, she's good at most photo shoots, she's good at runway walking, and she's just excellent in front of the judging panel. Those weirdos adore her (except for that one week she threw that other girl under the bus--and I still insist that she would have gotten away with it had she just timed it better). I think it's hers to win as long as she doesn't mess up (like Annaleigh last year, who inexplicably bombed the Cover Girl commercial when she'd been awesome at the first commercial did. Poor Annaleigh). She'll kill at go-sees (unless Brazilians are horrified by her olditude) because she's good with people and smart enough to get herself from place to place. She ought to knock her commercial out of the park (although the Cover Girl photo is a danger spot for her). And even if Natalie (who walks really well, maybe slightly better than Celia) makes it to the final two with her, her personality and the judges' liking of her will put her over the top.

So, those are my official predictions. I feel like the weakest one is Fo in the final two . . . maybe Allison will do well at her go-sees? Yeah . . . she's my unofficial backup prediction for final two.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

And Now for Your Monday Monach Moment

Henry I (1100-1135)

Oh, Henry I. What a card. I mean, besides the whole assassination/usurpation thing, he set the record for the number of illegitimate children fathered by an English king (nineteen--that we know of!).

This is yet another death story. What do you want from me? It was the Middle Ages. This one is really kind of a big deal: the sinking of the White Ship.

Now, prolific as Henry was, he only had two legitimate children: Matilda (remember her for later) and William the Aetheling ("Aetheling" being a sweet Old English word for prince). In 1120, Henry and some of his children (including William but not Matilda) returned to England from Normandy. The kids rode in the White Ship, the fastest ship in the fleet and also the scene of some raucous partying before departure. Unfortunately, the captain of the vessel got drunk and--I'm sure you can see where this is going--the ship sank in the English Channel.

Only two men grabbed hold of a spar from which the sail hung and, clinging to it for the greater part of the night, waited for help to come from any quarter. One was a butcher of Rouen named Berold, and the other a noble lad called Geoffrey . . . The night was frosty, so that the young man . . . finally lost his grip and . . . fell back to perish in the sea and was never seen again. But Berold, who was the poorest of all and was dressed in a pelisse made of rams' skins, was the only one of the great company to see the day . . .

The sad news spread swiftly from mouth to mouth through the crowds along the sea coast . . . but that day no one dared announce it to the anxious king, who earnestly asked for news . . . However, on the following day, by a wise plan of the Count Theobald's, a boy threw himself, weeping, at the king's feet, and the king learned from him that the cause of his grief was the wreck of the White Ship. Immediately Henry fell to the ground overcome with anguish, and after being helped to his feet by friends and led into a private room, gave way to bitter laments.
Orderic Vitalis, via The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes

The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes also notes that Henry I's reputation was embellished by "a respectable Victorian legend" that he never smiled again.

And this has been your (rather long) Monday Monarch Moment.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

He's Alive!

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friends: Season Three

In general:
This isn't quite where the show hit its stride, but it's the first whole season where it's there, in full stride. Striding along.

The breakneck pace of Season Two is gone, which allows for relationships to unfold (and crumble) more slowly and richly. Monica dates Pete, although she's hindered at first by not being attracted to him (I find this funny, since Jon Favreau is easily more attractive than some of the dudes the gals dated in Season 1 [Alan, that jerk Rachel has drinks on the balcony with, Phoebe's psychiatrist boyfriend, Hank Azaria] and possibly more attractive, depending on taste, than a bunch of others [Fun Bobby, Paul the Wine Guy, Bob, Young Ethan]. Not Clooney, though). Chandler manages a real relationship--with Janice, of all people. Joey falls for a woman who doesn't want him back (for the first time). The biggest event of the season, unquestionably, is Ross and Rachel's breakup, which I'll discuss more below.

The supporting actors get really pretty good. Favreau is great as Pete; Christine Taylor is really good as Ross's post-breakup, sometimes bald girlfriend Bonnie; Maggie Wheeler managed to make Janice more than a one-joke character; and Teri Garr overcomes stuntcasting by portraying a dynamite Phoebe, sr., playing Lisa-Kudrow-but-older to a tee. The real gem, though, is Giovanni Ribisi's Frank jr. Man, that guy was good at playing a strange teenager.

Story arcs become a little more prevalent (although still rarer than stand-alone plots). Joey gets a pretty solid one when he stars in a play alongside a woman he develops a love-hate relationship with. There's even one episode, "The One with the Tiny T-Shirt," in which all the stories are part of continuing arcs: Rachel goes on a date with Mark while trying to resolve her relationship with Ross, Joey starts acting in his play with no resolution to how things are going to go with Kate, and Monica continues not to be attracted to Pete. It's structurally odd for a Friends episode, but committment to story arcs demostrate a show's faith in its audience, so it's appreciated.

Little things that drive me crazy:
When Monica's depressed about Richard, and the gang sees her through the window, mouthing sad things about Civil War videos, Chandler says, "Look everybody--it's Weepy! The mime who cares too much!" THUD.

There's a fake old home video at the end of "The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel" that shows little Ross dressed up like a lady and singing about tea. But the little Monica in the video? Not fat. Not fat at all.

There are a bunch of continuity errors in "The One with the Flashback" (examples: at first, Joey thinks Chandler is gay, despite saying he never did in Season One's "The One Where Nana Dies Twice"; Ross finds out Carol is a lesbian despite the fact that she's just barely pregnant with his child a year later). I try not to let that bother me, but . . . it does.

The HIDEOUSLY stupid, unnecessary, and above all unfunny Robin Williams/Billy Crystal cameo at the beginning of "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion."

Little things I love:

"I better not do any, I dunno, lunges."

Good lines get spread around the whole cast:
  • Rachel: "Yeah, cuz that's why you won't get Isabella Rosselini. Geography."
  • Phoebe: "Come, dinosaur. We're not welcome in the House of No Imagination."
  • Monica: "That's my doodle of a ladybug. With a top hat! She's fancy."
  • Ross: "Can't a guy send a barbershop quartet to his girlfriend's office anymoooore?"
  • Joey: "It's a rented tux. I'm not going to go commando in another man's fatigues."
  • Joey: "She thinks she's the greatest actress since . . . sliced bread!" Chandler: "Ah, Sliced Bread. A wonderful Lady Macbeth."
Lines I use in real life:
  • Monica: "Let go! I'm a tiny little woman!"
  • Chandler: "Not touching, can't get mad! Not touching, can't get mad!"
  • Phoebe: "You just big, fat did it anyway!"

When Joey teaches an acting class, he breaks down at the end, noting that most of the people in there "are too ugly to even be on TV!" And they did a good job casting ugly people, I must say.

Come to think of it, Joey's whole monologue there (about his attempt at screwing over one of his students when they both auditioned for the same part) is gold.

Joey's infomercial.

The glass of fat.

Phoebe and Chandler singing "Endless Love."

A little thing I probably would have loved, had it actually happened:
When Chandler is dating Janice, she has a baby that she mentions but which is never seen. What if they'd ever shown Chandler trying to interact with that baby? That's hypothetically hilarious.

Speaking of hypothetical:
D'you suppose Pete ever did become the Ultimate Fighter? He did seem awfully determined.

Little things that remind me it was a different time:
Everybody has beepers and/or pagers. (And I don't even know the difference between a beeper and a pager.)

Ross, having just bought a bunch of fancy new entertainment equipment, wants to have "a laserdisc marathon." Woot . . . woot?

Rachel jokes, "Let's go shopping! I have a positive balance on my credit card, and I want to use it before Citibank goes under." . . . I miss the 90s.

Let's talk about Ross and Rachel:
Here's the thing: Ross and Rachel were always a terrible couple.

I feel like that fact gets lost in all those years proceding their breakup. You get so used to the messiness of how they used to be together (not to mention the very early messiness of before they were together) that you forget how messy it already was when they were actually, officially boyfriend-and-girlfriend. They consistently bring out the worst in each other and are terrible together. Observe:

We sympathize for Ross at first, because it's always adorable when a guy is yearning for a lady he secretly loves (although Ross is only yearning instead of just asking her out because he doesn't have the guts to put himself out there--contrast this with Jim on The Office, who was hopelessly in love with Pam and didn't make a move because she was engaged. Now that's a legitimate reason for holding back). But then we get to "The One Where the Monkey Gets Away" (which is near the end of the first season), where Ross first gets horrible. Rachel loses Marcel while she monkeysits him, and when Ross finds out, he explodes. But he's not just complaining about how his monkey got away; he personally attacks her, the woman he's supposedly in love with, telling her how irresponsible and spoiled and self-involved she is. And she doesn't even get mad at him! He goes completely over the line with his shaming and belittling of her, but by the end of the episode they're all hunky-dory again.

At the beginning of the second season, Rachel becomes UltraHarpy when Ross is dating Julie. Julie didn't do anything to deserve it, but Rachel is constantly, and all out of proportion, hateful to the poor thing. (When Ross dates Bonnie at the end of Season Three, Rachel's behavior is basically Julie Redux. It's not as sad, though, because Bonnie--had she stuck around longer--wouldn't have stood for that nonsense.) Then Ross finds out that Rachel has feelings for him, and what does he do? Scream at her. "The One Where Ross Finds Out" ends with that famous first kiss between the two of them, but it's one of those kisses that only happen on TV, where fighting somehow leads to making out.

Then, of course, to decide between Julie and Rachel, Ross makes his infamous list of pros and cons. This is the thing that Rachel chooses to get really angry at Ross about. Yes, it was hurtful, but she goes from being two minutes away from being his girlfriend to rebuffing him for five episodes or (since it was over the Christmas break) three and half months of broadcast time. Harsh.

It's undeniably cute when they kiss at the end of "The One with the Prom Video." But then on their first date, making out leads to Rachel giggling, which leads to them sniping at each other. In "The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies," discussion of Rachel's ex-boyfriends leads to them sniping at each other. Rachel reading a book about female empowerment ("The One Where Eddie Won't Go") leads to them sniping at each other.

Oh, and I always think this one is a real kicker: in "The One Where Old Yeller Dies," they tell each other "I love you" for the first time. While they are screaming at each other.

In Season Three, of course, the fighting and horribleness gets more fighty and horrible. "The One Where No One's Ready" hearkens back to the monkeysitting episode in that Ross takes out all his frustrations on Rachel in a way that could easily be labeled verbal abuse. It gets much worse when Rachel gets a job in fashion--she's friends with Mark, of whom Ross is crazy jealous, even though Rachel has never given him a reason to distrust her.

But Ross is also jealous of her job itself. That's the real problem in "The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break." Yes, Ross has a point that maybe Rachel is spending too much time at her job, but the way he handles it is immature and controlling. In the previous episode, she explains to him that she loves her job, and she loves that she's being independent and doing something all on her own. It's a part of her life without him, but she's (justly) proud of herself for becoming a career woman. To her face, he says that's fine, but behind her back (which is played for laughs) he mouths "NO!" to her question of whether it's ok.

And what a jerk he is for saying that. She's not allowed to have a life outside of him? He's not proud of her for transforming from a girl whose answer to the problem of not being able to depend on her daddy her whole life was to get married into a woman who competes in a professional setting, is good at what she does, and loves her work? What a horrible person Ross is for that.

Here's the upside: Ross and Rachel are pretty funny as an ex-couple. That's where their vicious dynamic really benefits them. So it's actually a good thing, comedically speaking, that that's their default status for seven and a half years.

Strangely awesome yet mediocre episode:
"The One Where Monica and Richard are Friends" is only OK as far as Monica and Richard being "friends" goes, but it's supported by the always-funny-for-some-reason-I'm-not-quite-sure-of plots of Phoebe dating a guy whose . . . man stuff . . . is . . . awkwardly visible to others, and the one where Rachel and Joey read each other's favorite books, with the added gag that it makes a person feel better to put a scary book in the freezer. Joey putting Little Women in the freezer when Beth starts getting really sick is hilarious every time.

Top five episodes:
"The One with Frank, jr."
or: "The One Where Joey Builds the Entertainment Unit" or: "The One with the Celebrity Freebie Lists"

"The One with a Chick and a Duck"
or: "The One Where Pete Buys Monica a Restaurant" or: "The One Where Ross Takes Care of Rachel (Instead of Being on TV)"

And the total classics:
"The One Where No One's Ready"

"The One with the Football"

"The One Without the Ski Trip"
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Fascinating Tale from my Daily Adventures

I impulse-bought a ruler today!

I was in this odd little shop in the student union (it's like, 30 square feet of t-shirts, candy, and tampons by the each [which I find suspicious, as I doubt those are "labeled for individual sale"]) to buy a pen--I'd left all my black pens at home and it was no good trying to compose biting analysis on works about SirFrancis Bacon in light blue ink--when I saw rulers in amongst the school supplies.

I've been without a ruler for nigh on a year now. I accidentally destroyed my faithful neon orange ruler, which I had had since fifth grade (explaining why it was neon orange; fourth and fifth grades were my neon colors phase) sometime last spring/summer. It was a devastating loss, as I am sure you can imagine.

So now I have a brand-new non-neon-orange ruler. And also some pens which, despite being clickytop in design, do not make a real clicking noise. I find this disconcerting, although I admit that it may stop me from inadvertently annoying the people around me. I can't help it; I get fidgety when I'm writing in the library.

(Clicka-clicka-clicka. Pause. Clicka. Pause. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick.)

Also, I totally saw a guy who looked like Mike Sherman on the Terrace.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

And Now for Your Monday Monarch Moment

William Rufus (1087-1100)

William Rufus is one of those historical figures whose most interesting feature is his death. The second most interesting thing is that his nickname was "Rufus" because he had red hair. Or blond hair but a red face, depending on who you ask. (See? Not that interesting.)

When William the Conqueror died, leaving behind three surviving sons, he decided to give some stuff to each of them. The oldest one got Normandy, the middle one (Rufus) got England, and the last one got a whole bunch of money. Hint: if you ever become an absolute ruler, do not do this. Sons 1 and 2 spent the rest of their time trying to reunite their father's kingdom (each under his own rule, of course), which resulted in lots of fighting, nobles picking sides, attempted rebellion by Bishop Odo, etc.

Bishop Odo?
But remember Son #3?

King William II died in suspicious circumstances while out hunting in August 1100. The official story is that the king and his friends were taking their pleasure in the New Forest, Hampshire . . . when the fateful arrow was loosed by William's friend, Walter Tirel. The arrow struck William in the chest and he died at once. However, suspicion is inevitable that William's brother Henry, who was in the party and who subsequently became king, was somehow involved in the 'accident'. Henry rode at once to Winchester, where he secured the royal treasury, then proceeded to London to have himself elected king by the ruling council. Crucially, the 'accident' happened when the rightful heir, [Son #1], was away on the First Crusade and Tirel himself was never punished.
Charles Phillips, Kings and Queens of Britain

Assassinated with an arrow by an agent of your usurping brother? That's classic.

And this has been your Monday Monarch Moment.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Things to Do in Wisconsin: Chazen Museum

A few weekends ago, Neal and I checked off one of the items on this list: the Chazen Museum of Art.

And we saw art.

It's not a very big museum, but they have a nice variety of cool stuff. There was a room of Buddhist and Hindu sculpture, displays of European medals and coins, some modern American paintings (and furniture), a big Byzantine thing, and lots of Renaissance paintings. Also, there a was a carved wooden Jesus on a wooden donkey.

(I only had my camera phone with me. Sorry I didn't fit the donkey into the shot.)

One of the special exhibits was "Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities" which was much cooler than it sounds. For some reason, they don't have many pictures of it on their website, so I tracked some down to post here:

So cool.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pet Peeve #387

In my university email account, every time something like "PLS URGENT REPLY IS NEEDED. ." from shows up in my inbox, I hit "submit spam." And every time I do that, this message pops up:

"Please verify that your filters are set up correctly . . . . Verify that your Junk Mail filter is enabled and not set to a low setting . . . and that you do not have any entries in your Accept or Mailing List filters that are too general."

It assumes that because I'm getting junk mail, I'm doing something wrong. You know what that is? That's blaming the victim.

And I resent it.
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