Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Friends Thanksgiving Episodes Ranked

Over the past few years, watching at least a portion of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes has become a staple in our home. Even my friend David, who doesn't typically watch Friends, will say that we need to watch them when he comes over for dinner. So, in honor of that and in honor of Thanksgiving, here are some of my thoughts on spending Thanksgiving with six of your favorite New Yorkers.

10. The One With the List
Bottom of the list for the simple reason that it's not even a true Thanksgiving episode. Other than Monica working on Thanksgiving-themed "Mockolate" recipes, there isn't even a mention of the holiday. Besides all that, Ross and Rachel's relationship drama always bores me. I know they're the main couple of the show, but I don't like their relationship. But that's a rant for another time.

9. The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs 
I know I just said I didn't like Rachel's relationship with Ross, but I think I might like her relationship with Tag even less. But like Ross/Rachel, it's a discussion for another time. The redeeming quality of this episode is Chandler coming to let Clunkers stay in the apartment. But I'm a sucker for any dog.

8. The One with the Late Thanksgiving 
The three plot points in this one just don't interest me that much, compared to other Thanksgiving episodes. The baby beauty pageant, the game, and Chandler's cranberries. There are some great one-liners though. "Don't you put words in people's mouths. You put turkey in people's mouths."

7. The One with Chandler in the Box 
The triangle between Joey, Chandler, and Kathy just makes me uncomfortable (and after so much buildup, they break up so quickly anyway). Also Monica's date with Tim is awkward. Basically the relationships in this episode are just awkward to watch, but also plenty of good one-liners, so I can't hate it either.

6. The One with the Football 
In fairness, this is one of the only times I care about football. That being said, it's still on the lower half of my list because I don't care about the Geller Cup. And besides the Geller Cup, the only real plot point is the Dutch girl. Meh.

5. The One Where the Underdog Gets Away 
The antics of this episode are fun. And it sets up future years for future years of Thanksgiving fun. The best part I think is when Monica is so upset about being locked out that she starts squeaking during her cry.

4. The One With Rachel’s Other Sister 
Amy Greene is the character we all love to hate, I think. Despite how cringe-worthy her comments are, she's the best part of this episode. Because of her, we got the comical discussion about who would get Emma if Ross and Rachel died. In the end, despite doubts about Chandler's parenting before, he and Ross have a heartwarming moment about his parenting skills.

3. The One Where Ross Got High 
This one is probably in my top 3 because it has one of my favorite gifs. A few of them actually. I use them at work often. Other than the added dynamic of the senior Gellers joining the Friends, it's a pretty uneventful. It's definitely one of the many times that Ross bugs me. But that's another rant. Rachel's trifle and Phoebe's dreams are my favorite part. And Joey's "I WANNA GO!!!"

2. The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks 
I think the part I enjoy most about this episode is that it's full of mini-stories, straight to the punch(line). We also get Fat Monica, who is always one of my favorites. So despite her awkward seduction a year later, Monica makes this one #2 for me.

1. The One With The Rumor 
The comical twists and turns make this #1 on my list. Will and Monica's jokes about their previous weight help keep the tension light. We also have Phoebe's not-so-subtle crush on Will that will always make me laugh. And who doesn't love Joey's Thanksgiving pants?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sparkshorts Review: Float

(Guest Post by Ryan)

Pixar’s newest nearly wordless short, found only on Disney Plus, is relatable, allegorical, and cathartic. Float tells the story of an imperfect father and his imperfect son, who find perfection in their imperfection. Attention to detail is Pixar’s strength, and it comes through in things like the father’s crooked teeth, the son’s windswept hair, and the looks on the neighbors’ faces that simultaneously show both judgment and awe.

Float was written to tell the story of a father struggling with his son’s atypicality, reflective of director Bobby Rubio’s own struggles when his son was diagnosed with autism. But because Rubio chooses to use floating as the metaphor for autism, the short transcends pigeonholing, and can be applied to any number of divergences from what is considered normal. A boy who floats could just as easily be a girl with depression, a man with anxiety, or a woman who is an introvert.

And who can’t relate to the few spoken words in the short, which are so poignantly shouted, “Why can’t you just be normal?!”

At times heartbreaking, at times heartwarming, and at times both, Float encourages those with challenges, and their loved ones, to embrace their uniqueness. Negative challenges are present in any difference, like the boy in Float who might present differently than “the norm”. A child with depression might be chronically sad. A man with anxiety might have panic attacks. A woman who is an introvert might struggle to be a leader. These challenges are inherent, but if we focus on the negatives, they weigh us down, like so many rocks in our backpack.

But Float also teaches us that there is beauty in our challenges. When we embrace and love our whole selves, we gain perspective. Embracing our ourselves -- not in spite of our uniqueness, but because of our uniqueness -- is the key to finding self esteem and mental health. The boy in Float can do extraordinary things beyond the abilities of others. A child with depression might be more empathetic with those that need a listening ear. A man with anxiety might have more concern and care for others. A woman who is an introvert might be the best listener you’ve ever met.

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Horse and His Boy

Ever since the point where the baby could start to hear in utero (I think that's around 16 weeks?) I've been reading bedtime stories to her. I chose "The Chronicles of Narnia" to start. I figured I can get through all seven books before she can have an opinion on which bedtime stories she wants to hear. We're currently on "The Horse and His Boy" and I've gotta say it's my favorite. I know the most popular of the Narnia series, but it means a lot to me.

Short version of the story: I came home from my mission due to anxiety and during the time when I was figuring out if I could/would go back, I was reading through Narnia for the first time. I happened to be reading "The Horse and His Boy" on a particularly stressful day. But that made the reading all the sweeter.

Near the end of the book, Shasta (the main character) is lost in the mountain fog. His mission to warn the King of Archenland has been completed and now he's lost and depressed. Everything seemed to go perfectly for everyone but him. In the midst of his sadness, a talking Narnian creature joins him. This creature, who turns out to be Aslan, tells him that he has been watching over him all along his journey. Shasta was never alone.

As Aslan is meant to represent Jesus Christ, I find it interesting that all the times Shasta encountered him previously in the book guided him along, but in very different ways.

The first time Shasta encountered Aslan, he had appeared to be two wild lions. These lions had driven the two Narnian horses (Bree and Hwin) together along with their riders (Shasta and Aravis, respectively). With the four of them together, they were able to complete their journey, which would have no happened if they'd been alone. In a similar sense, I believe that the Lord will use the our trials to bring us together with the people that we need in our lives. It's not always fun. It's not always pleasant. But we wouldn't be the same people without them. If I had been where I wanted to be over the past ten years, instead of where God wanted me to be, I’d never have met some of my very best friends.

When Shasta encountered Aslan the second time, he had taken the form of a cat. In this calm and quiet form, Aslan kept Shasta company as he spent the night alone in the desert, after getting split up from his friends. As I think about how the cat comforted him, I think about the promise of the Holy Ghost as the “comforter” (John 14:26). This is also one of the roles that Christ played (John 14:18).

The same night that Shasta was alone in the desert, he heard jackals howling in the distance. He heard the roaring of a lion scare the jackals off. The roaring scared Shasta as well, but even while he was scared he was safe. Aslan had scared off the jackals, keeping Shasta protected. In the same way, I believe that even though God's will scares us sometimes, it's the way we'll be safe.

The next time Shasta was visited by Aslan was the last (chronologically) before the big revelation on the mountain road. While running toward Archenland and away from Prince Rabadash of Calormen, The horses were out of energy and couldn't run any faster. That was the case until a lion started chasing after them. The fear gave the horses new energy and because of that Shasta was able to make it to King Lune of Archenland in time. Likewise, sometimes trials, though painful and scary, push us to our limits we didn't know we could reach. If it wasn't for the Lord emotionally stretching me, I wouldn't know the strength and faith that He's blessed me with.

There was one more time that Aslan watched over Shasta that he told in the end. As a baby, Shasta had been left adrift in the ocean (you'll have to read the book to know why), but Aslan helped that boat with baby Shasta make its way safely to shore. He was found by a fisherman who raised him and, despite the abusive upbringing, it kept Shasta safe until he was called to save Archenland. Just like Aslan on that night, the Savior will gently guide us through our oceans to somewhere safe where He can prepare us for what's next.

I don't know what you're going through, but our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is watching over you, preparing you, stretching you, and caring for you. That much I know.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary

(Guest Post by David T)

Dear Ariel, Eric, Ursula, and the Cast of “The Little Mermaid,”

Happy 30th Anniversary! You have reached a milestone in cinematic history! Thirty years ago on the 17 November 1989, all of you splashed onto the big screen and into hearts’ of millions, including mine.

I was 10 years old when I saw your movie. I remember sitting in a darkened theater with my aunts and younger sister, and being transported “under the sea.” Upon seeing your wedding dress, Ariel, one of my aunts whispered that she wanted one just like yours when she got married. I received toy versions of you and Ursula in my Happy Meals. And then around 6 months later, my family purchased your film on home video, where once again I visited “part of your world.”

In the years and decades that have passed, I’ve collected The Little Mermaid soundtrack on audio cassette and CD, and the film on video cassette and DVD. I’ve memorized many scenes and musical numbers from your movie. Ariel, you taught me that it’s acceptable to walk or swim a different path, even when others, including fathers, don’t understand. And that song is a very powerful way to bare and express my soul. While being evil is self-destructive, Ursula, you’ve entertained me with your villainy. No one else can convince “poor unfortunate souls” with such enthusiasm to make a deal quite like you. Flounder, you are an example of being a loyal and supportive friend; you’ve shown that views of humans and young mermaids can change, Sebastian; and Scuttle, you’ve started a trend among human girls and boys in how to really use a “dinglehopper.” And your determination and courage, Eric, to find and not let go of the girl or mermaid that you love is applauded.

All of you should be proud of the legacy of The Little Mermaid. Your film revitalized Disney movie making. It set the standard for storytelling, believable and lovable characters, music, and animation. The Little Mermaid ushered in the “renaissance” in Walt Disney animated feature films, and set a precedence that storytellers in animation both inside and outside Walt Disney studios have sought to follow. Your film has impacted my family too. When The Little Mermaid returned to theaters in 1997, I was nostalgic about my childhood. To revisit the magic of seeing your movie on the big screen, I took my sisters to see it, the youngest watching your film for the first time in theaters. Eleven years later, my younger sister introduced her daughter to The Little Mermaid on the small screen when showing your movie to her in the DVD format. Since that time, my niece has loved you, Ariel, and your world. She has watched your movie over and over again, has your doll and other toys, and got an Ariel mini doll key chain when we visited the Lego Store this year.

THANK YOU for three memorable decades of lessons, laughter, tears, music, entertainment, and happily ever after! And here’s to another 30 years of sharing these gifts with me, my family, and the world! Happy 30th Anniversary!!!

With Love,


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

7 Underrated Disney Movies to Check Out on Disney Plus

Disney Plus launched this week! In honor of their release, I asked David (one of our guest writers and the biggest Disney savant I know) what lesser-known and under appreciated Disney movies people should take advantage of now that they're included in the streaming service.

1. Lady and the Tramp - We've got a new live-action "Lady and the Tramp" with the lauch of Disney+. Before you watch that, go ahead and watch the original cartoon version. It's been out for decades, but it's kind of fallen back into obscurity due to the more popular movies, like the Disney Princesses. But what's not to like? It's a cute romance and its stars are all dogs.

2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - This one was my little brother's favorite growing up (his first toy was a plush Tigger). And why not? It's a cute movie made of featurettes that Disney had done prior. Strung together, it's cute and you can chop it up to be watched in sections if you've got a little kid (definitely gonna be using that when my daughter is born). Also, I look forward to taking my daughter on the "Winnie the Pooh" ride at Disneyland/Walt Disney World in a couple years.

3. The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under - Long before Frozen 2 was ever thought of, "The Rescuers" got a theatrical sequel. Both movies have a consistent cast of their main characters, Bernard and Miss Bianca. Both movies have lovable characters, heartfelt stories, and freaky villains (probably a bit too realistic, compared to fantastical villains like Jafar or Ursula).

4. The Emperor's New Groove - This is easily one of my favorite movies (top 5 for sure, if not top 3). I have a hard time trusting anyone who hasn't seen "The Emperor's New Groove". Its small cast makes for very solid characters. Sure we have Pacha's family, but other than them we have only four major characters: Kuzco, Pacha, Yzma, and Kronk. I think the best part is that it's nonsensical and just fun to watch. It's also highly quotable, as I've written about previously. -- Also, can we talk about why there STILL isn't an "Emperor's New Groove" roller coaster at Disney yet?
SEE ALSO: "Everyday Use of Emperor's New Groove"

5. Fantasia 2000 - I've never seen "Fantasia 2000", so I asked for David's insight on this movie. Apparently Walt Disney had wanted regular updates of "Fantasia" every few years. So 60 years after the original, Roy Disney (his nephew) promoted this one. We got different animation styles and music, the best (in David's opinion) is the Firebird Suite. It contained realistic animation of animals, a lovable nature sprite, and a horrifying firebird.

6. Treasure Planet - The oversimplified version of this is that it's a science fiction adaption of the novel "Treasure Island". It was done with oil painting backgrounds, making it one of the more expensive animated films. At its heart, it's a story of a troubled boy who becomes a man who learns right from wrong. (Thanks to David for the synopsis of that, since I haven't seen this one in 10 years)

7. The Princess and the Frog - Tiana might be one of the most under appreciated Disney Princesses. I actually never saw this movie until David was my roommate several years ago. It's definitely a big twist on the story of "The Frog Prince". If you're the kind that doesn't care for the Disney Princesses because they're not good role models for young girls, (first off, David will fight you) Tiana is not a typical Disney Princess. She's not helpless. In fact, she's probably too independent and she had to learn to let other people help her. That's something I can definitely take more of in my life.

There are probably dozens of other Disney movies that you need to check out with your new Disney Plus account. Others I might recommend are "Atlantis", "Fun and Fancy Free", "Meet the Robinsons", and "The Great Mouse Detective". Also, thanks to David for consulting with me on this post. Look forward to seeing a new post from him in the near future about a certain Disney Princess's anniversary year.