Ruth Reichl memoirs, ‘Yes Please’, Lena Dunham and more

I’ve been trying to read more this year. I’m using a notebook that I bought at City Lights Books in San Francisco to list every book I read this year. Counting my friend Joel Kelly‘s short eBook “No Greater Love Than This” (and count it I do – you should, too!) I’m currently at fourteen. I’d say my usual average for the year is around ten, so this is awesome for me.

amy-poehler-yes-pleaseThe last book I read was Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I loved it, and I need to go back and read it again RIGHT NOW with a notebook and pen so I can write down all the great advice she gives. Only I can’t, because I’ve already jumped into Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl. Gah! How am I supposed to keep up with all these smart, witty women and their stupid amazing books?

I felt like Amy and I share a few qualities. A certain spunk and passion that, maybe sometimes, can turn into self-righteousness, defensiveness, and a tendency to anger quickly. She’s older than me, so I felt like she had some good tips on how to handle this personality. (Tina Fey’s book reminded me more of my smart, sensitive sister Allison. Together we will take over the world! Though realistically, we probably both related most to Mindy Kaling. She is younger, childless, and I believe more of a writer than a performer at heart.)

I think you already know whether you’ll like Amy Poehler’s book. If you like her, you’ll love it. If you’ll be bored by stories about what a woman in her forties has learned so far, the ins and outs of sketch comedy, SNL and Parks and Recreation, and how very tired Amy Poehler is then, you know, give it a pass.

I spent three weeks in Italy back in September, and during that trip I read a lot. On planes, on trains, and in bed trying to wind down from the day’s adventures. I read all three memoirs by New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl. These books were fascinating, and perfect to read while abroad. Experiencing food is one of my favorite parts of traveling, and she really made me think about flavors and presentation and cuisine in general a lot more. She is also an incredibly interesting woman with a colorful, strange life. The books are called Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires.

ruth reichl memoirsI also read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. It’s a collection of essays on topics ranging from racism, to feminism, to pop culture, to competitive Scrabble playing. It was a fast, interesting read that riled me up and made me think.

not that kind of girlI’d love to read at two or three more books this year. I’ve barely cracked the cover of Dunham’s, but what should I read next?

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Survivor: Off Her Rocker

Usually, the merging of tribes makes for a lively episode of Survivor. Not this week. In my book, that’s two duds in a row – I hope this season of Survivor picks up soon! I see players with the potential to be good strategists, but so little has happened so far.

survivor merge

If you’ve seen the most recent episode, click on through..

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Dear Internet: Do we have a feminist version of “mansplaining”?

Like many other Canadian feminists and news junkies, I have spent the past week or so reading approximately six lengthy articles per day about Jian Ghomeshi.

If you’re unfamiliar with this topic, Ghomeshi is a very popular radio host here in Canada. News recently broke that he hurts women. Here are links to three pieces that really stuck with me:

This story is developing so quickly, those stories will probably be irrelevant by the time I post this. Sorry, I tried my best! Google it or something!

I’ve spent so much of my time recently reading about this story, discussing this story, arguing about this story and explaining this story. I’ve been trying to answer questions like these:

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Jian could be innocent, we don’t know all the facts.

We’ll never “know” all the “facts”. Assuming Jian’s innocence is assuming the guilt of his accusers. It was saying that eight (or nine or ten or fifty…) women are liars.

Why didn’t the women tell anyone? Why didn’t they go to the police?

“Why didn’t they go to the police” is a question only white men have the privilege – the luxury – of asking. They did not go because they knew it would likely go nowhere. They wouldn’t be believed, or they’d be believed but there’d be no evidence. They did not go because of a staggering power imbalance.

Why didn’t they tell this guy to scram when he seemed weird? Why did she go to his house/get in his car/spend any time alone with him/etc.?

The only question we should be asking is “Why does this man hurt women?” End of story.

These are just a few examples. I am happy to be surrounded by people who are open to having intelligent conversations about this, who are happy to learn. Men who understand that a woman’s perspective on being a woman is more relevant than his own.

The Internet has coined the term “mansplain”, which Urban Dictionary defines as “to delight in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.”

I’d like to suggest we have a term for feminist explanations, defined as “to patiently and repeatedly deliver thoughtful explanations regarding sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, feminism and one’s own world view as a woman, delivered with rock solid confidence and certainty that she is worth listening to because she is the woman in this conversation.”

What should we call it, friends? “Femsplaining”? “Fem-ducation”? “Feminterpret”? I do not like any of these.

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‘The Voice’ is Better Than Ever

The Voice just wrapped up the Battle Rounds of its seventh season. (This show airs twice per year, so yes, we’re in season seven.) The talent is strong and diverse, and the coaching panel is the best it’s ever been.

The Voice

As always, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton act as bookends. I think they’ve both really honed the craft of being a good coach and playing the game of The Voice over the years. I also enjoy their faux-argumentative antics. This season, they’re joined by Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams. That’s right – a team of fresh-faced hopefuls get to be coached by the one and only Pharrell, maker of stars.

I love Gwen and Pharrell on this show. They’re pals, so their dynamic together is incredibly charming and warm. They’re enthusiastic and they’re smart. I’m excited to see them keep working with the teams they’ve assembled in the live rounds.

Over the past three episodes, Taylor Swift helped coach each performer through a Knock Out Rounds performance. She was fantastic! I couldn’t believe what specific, useful advice she managed to give each and every artist. I’ve had her album “1989” playing on repeat since it came out. I think she’s a charismatic performer, a unique songwriter, and an all-around icon of my generation. Her work on this show just displayed how hard she must work, and how well she knows her stuff. It also showed that she can and does sing on key, as she’d often burst into song to illustrate her points.

If you’ve watched The Voice in the past and haven’t been following this season, TUNE BACK IN.

The ones I’ve got my eye on:

  • Jean Kelley (Team Pharrell), who absolutely nailed her performance of Sia’s hit “Chandelier”.
  • Reagan James (Team Blake), who sang “Hit ‘Em Up Style” in the Knock Outs. It will never stop being a surprise that she is fifteen years old.
  • Taylor John Williams (Team Gwen) (or as he’s known in my household, “hat kid”) whose version of “Mad World” is so great I might buy it.
  • Damien (Team Adam), who most recently sang “How Do I Live”.
  • Taylor Brashears (Team Blake), who I consider to be the best country artist in the group. She sang “Landslide” this week.
  • DaNica Shirey (Team Pharrell), who most recently sang “Saving All My Love For You”. A couple weeks ago I was worried she was dressed like a real estate agent and came across to buttoned up on stage, but she looked better this week and her voice is truly amazing.
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Books and Thoughts and Stuff

This is a weird time for TV and I.

After five years (I think it’s five? I’ve forgotten Couchtime’s anniversary) of writing about TV religiously, it’s sometimes hard for me to recap my favorite shows episode-by-episode.

A lot has happened in five years. I found a career I love, got married, and generally have a little less time on my hands.

I also watch a little less TV. This year, several of my favorite TV shows will come to an end – Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, Mad Men – and I haven’t picked up anything new. (I’m TRYING with Marry Me but I really, really do not know about that yet. I’m also trying The Affair and remain on the fence.)

So I thought I’d experiment a bit with something new. This weekend, I read all of Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. It was fantastic. I picked it up on Saturday morning and put it down on Sunday evening, which meant I spent a lot of time on the couch. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading on my bed, on planes and trains, and plenty of other places recently.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I do occasionally. I read magazines and essays. I listen to music. I have random thoughts. I play board games. I do a lot of this while sitting on the couch. So I’ve decided to experiment with Couchtime a bit, to expand its repertoire. I’ll be sharing some posts that are about other types of culture of the next few weeks, just to try it out. If you don’t like them, that’s OK! Just breeze on past them and find the Survivor recap you’re looking for. If you do, awesome! Comment and share it with your friends.

Talk soon. I’m off to watch The Good Wife.

Posted in Not TV

Survivor: The Price of Rice

blue tribe

The sad, wet, hungry blue tribe.


Don’t mind me. I’m just laughing over the blue tribe having to trade all their comfort items for rice this week, only a few days before merging with a tribe that has rice. Don’t get me wrong – I would’ve made the trade. Sustenance is more important than comfort. And all those people wouldn’t be able to live off one tribe’s rice supply forever. But still. It’s funny.

Jeremy didn’t agree, though – wow, was he ever against making that trade! Is there food on that island that only he knows about? They’re not getting fish, but is there a secret plantain supply somewhere? He seemed too comfortable with the idea of just getting by off Reward Challenge wins.

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Survivor – Swingers

Well, that was an unpredictable episode. How are you guys liking this season of Survivor so far? I’ve yet to be very impressed by the cast. One tribe can barely sustain themselves, and the other lost almost every challenge. Strategy-wise, no one has knocked my socks off. Right now, my favorites are Josh and Reed.

This episode had a big tribal shuffle-up, which I always have mixed feelings about. Yes, it can liven up a stagnant game. But it also undermines real strategy and alliance-building, which rubs me the wrong way. I hate seeing good players get voted out because the picked the wrong colored buff out of a hat.

tribe swapping

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