friends

Jacob Hall Has Been Binge-Watching the Entirety of Friends

Friends is my wife’s favorite show, which means that I’ve seen my fair share of Friends. That’s just how marriage works. Thankfully, as I’ve learned over the years, this NBC sitcom was a ratings champion for 10 seasons for a reason: it’s a damn good show. And while I had seen episodes scattered about here and there, I only recently sat down to watch the entire series from start to finish (it’s streaming on Netflix) and I found myself doubly impressed. For a three-camera comedy that aired on network television in the ’90s and achieved mass popularity, this series is shocking consistent, always funny, and frequently emotional. I’m not prepared to call it great art, but I am prepared to call it great comfort food, a simple recipe executed to perfection by a charming cast and a team of writers who quickly learned how to play to these actors’ strengths.

Not all of Friends has aged well. While the show was undeniably more progressive than most in its day, there are elements that are, well, problematic by modern standards. Ross is one fedora short of a “nice guy” monster. Chandler’s gay panic is cringe-worthy. Joey is…a sexual predator? The lack of diversity in the cast stands out more than ever these days. And yet, judging entertainment too harshly for the political incorrectness of its day would be to miss the forest for the trees. I can grumble about what doesn’t work now, but I can also rave about what still works brilliantly: David Schwimmer’s adept physical comedy, Lisa Kudrow’s brilliantly left-field line deliveries, Matt LeBlanc’s hilarious reactions, Courteney Cox’s good-natured neuroses, Matthew Perry’s deliberate anti-wit, and Jennifer Aniston’s rock solid comedic chops (which improve as the series goes on).

My favorite episodes tend to be those that stick the bulk of the cast in a single location and let them bounce off one another for 22 minutes. Specifically. I love season 3’s “The One Where No One’s Ready” and season 4’s “The One With the Embryos,” which showcase the energy of a manic stage play. Sometimes, all a television show needs is a set and a bunch of funny people to completely and totally work.

where'd you go bernadette

Jack Giroux is Reading Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is a hard book to put down. After buying the bestseller at an airport, thinking I’d read a few pages on the flight, I just couldn’t stop after only reading a few pages. It’s one of those entertaining books where pausing to do anything at all feels like an annoyance. Semple’s story, which Richard Linklater is adapting into a film starring Cate Blanchett, involves Microsoft, Antarctica, and dangerous rivalries with neighbors. It sounds silly, and sometimes it is wonderfully silly, but it’s also a great story about a mother and daughter, Bernadette Fox and Bee. The teenager has to go searching for her mother after she goes missing. There’s no major crime involved. The story features the Russian mob, but that’s another matter, one that doesn’t feel out of place for a second in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It’s a story of a child learning about her mother, who she loves deeply. Their relationship is beautiful and totally believable – tt’s their story, and it’s a very good one. I’m excited to see what Linklater does with it. So far, he’s put together some perfect choices for these flawed and fun characters.

you are a badass

Christopher Stipp Has Been Reading You Are a Badass at Making Money

Real talk: I often feel adrift in the flotsam and jetsam of life. I think at a certain age, you should have some of the basics nailed down about how to carry yourself and be knowledgeable about the basic inner workings of things like relationship building, how to be a good listener, or how you should always bring a gift to a housewarming. For me, it’s always been a struggle to try and appreciate how money ebbs and flows in and out of your life. I’m not talking about how to make money quick or how to sit on my tuchas and will it into existence. That’s a program for someone interested in the short term. I’m more interested in resetting my conceptions, my attitude, and, most importantly, my mind-set when it comes to gaining wealth. I had read Jen Sincero’s other popular book, You Are a Badass, and was this close to not getting past the first chapter just based on her tone. I stuck with it and I started to feel there were some great nuggets to be gleaned from her writing and insights into just how you can reframe moments in your life in a more assertive, positive way.

I would probably be the first to tell you if I thought there was any hokum to any of this, but it’s almost like unlocking the secret to how to lose weight: eat less and exercise. Here, though, the message is delivered in a much more satisfying way and as it pertains to her new book about money it’s also tapping into those things that could help you raise up a notch or two on this subject. I will fully admit that I do not read this book in public with its dust jacket on and I am hyper aware of keeping my fingers wrapped close to the spine if only to obfuscate the title of the book. There’s a little bit of personal shame, that’s completely on me by the way, in telegraphing to the world that you’re reading a book on how to think about money. I, honestly, wouldn’t mention that I’m reading the book if I didn’t think so many other people could be helped by the anecdotes and simple little steps you can take to try and increase your ability to live a better life.

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