Of the Week

What you should be watching and reading and listening to this week.

First of all, if you’re still not watching Broad City, you’re missing out on the most hilarious, inventive… you know what? There aren’t even adjectives to properly describe it amazing-ness. Just watch it.

In other news, the ex-writers of cult hit of comedy wonder, Happy Endings, have posted an extremely cryptic tweet linking to this website, counting 52 days down to something. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Happy Endings is one of the best television sitcoms of all time and deserves whatever revival it can find. (I’m looking at you, Netflix. *crosses fingers and prays*)

Eddie Huang wrote a really interesting article about the process of adapting his memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, to network television. And E. Alex Jung over at Vulture wrote about watching said adaption with nearly a thousand young Asian-Americans. I haven’t seen the show yet (as my PVR is a hat made of ass and I have yet to find legal distribution of the pilot), but it’s MIND BLOWING that this is the first Asian-American family on TV in 20 years.

Gina Rodriguez

TV: Jane the Virgin

I do not envy the person who had to pitch this show. That being said, The CW is clearly open and willing to take chances; and this show is a sign the network wants to hold their own with the Big Four.

IMDb offers this log line: A young, devout woman discovers that she was accidentally artificially inseminated. 

But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Loosely adapted from Venezuelan telenovela, Juana La Virgen, the soap opera plot twists in JTV are marvellous and many. But unlike the soaps you watched while home sick as a kid, the characters in Jane the Virgin react to each twist like actual human beings. And that’s what makes this show so brilliant. The show knows it’s crazy (and often reminds us with a stellar narration, dream sequences, freeze frames and text on screen), but it never treats its characters as crazy; it lets them roll with the punches in honest, character-based ways. And no one has to deal with more than Jane, played by the categorically wonderful Gina Rodriguez. You’ll fall in love with her instantly. Watch it and I promise you will be utterly charmed. And if you’re still not sold, google ‘Best TV 2014’ and I swear, you’ll find Jane the Virgin on every list.

You can find the entire series on Shomi or iTunes in Canada and a million other places in the States.

Jenny Slate

Movie: Obvious Child

Unfortunately deemed the ‘abortion rom-com’, Obvious Child is so much more. Starring Jenny Slate (SNL, Parks & Rec, Marcel the Shell), this film is about a young woman growing up and figuring out her life and maybe falling in love and dealing with her career and her family in the oh-so-terrifying time that is your late twenties. Oh, and she also happens to get pregnant and get an abortion.

Whatever. It’s a part of the plot, an important part, and an important story to tell and discuss, but  Obvious Child is about so much more. Just see it. See it because it is hilarious. See it because it’s sweet and heartfelt and honest. See it because it was one of the best films of 2014 and not enough people paid attention. Also, did I mention that it’s hilarious? Because it really, really is.

Obvious Child was written and directed by Gillian Robespierre based on a short she made in 2009. I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait too long for another film from Robespierre. As Vulture pointed out the other day, Sundance (where this film debuted) has a major ‘white guy problem.’ Basically, studios troll Sundance for new directors for their upcoming tentpoles and franchises, yet somehow manage to ignore anyone who isn’t a white dude. Sure, things are a’changing, but it’s not fast enough — so hopefully Robespierre and, frankly, every talented, worthy director being ignored by Hollywood (this is an assumption. Maybe she has lots of stuff in the works?!) can keep doing their own thing, writing their scripts and telling their stories; because I really want to keep watching. And, hopefully, Hollywood will start watching, too.

Book: The Interestings51zPTVP+crL

One of the coolest things about reading is when you get to sit down and within a couple days or weeks, you can live through and experience someone’s entire life — or at least the most formative part of it.

The Interestings is a hypnotic, expansive novel. It takes place over the course of several decades, following a group of friends from summer camp to middle age. Meg Wolitzer never worries about making our protagonist, Jules, that dreaded buzzword: likeable; instead, she makes her human. And when she shows us her life, she gives us its interior, with all its terrible thoughts and emotions included.

It is an aching study on friendship, depression, talent, jealousy, and unrequited love. There are so conversations to be had within this novel that I don’t even know where to start.  (Though, I think I might try with, ‘What makes a life interesting?’)

I suggest starting this when you have time to be swept away. It’s not a short book and it’s not easy to put down. Read it and let’s talk more.

Song: Hunger of the Pine by Alt-J

I am painfully, painfully out of the loop when it comes to new music. (Happily accepting suggestions!) This song isn’t new, but it’s really, really good.

Happy Saturday, friends!

Four Thousand Islands, Laos (SPIDER ATTACK!)

In 2008 I spend three months backpacking around Southeast Asia. This is one of my stories. 

Keli and I took turns riding the broken bike the whole winding road back. We’d spent our second day cycling around the island of Don Khong and across to a neighbouring island to see the Khone Phapheng Falls, the largest waterfall (by volume) in Southeast Asia. 4,000 Islands or Si Phan Don are nestled into the verrrry bottom of Laos right near the Cambodian border. Though often frequented by young backpackers as a side trip from Thailand, Laos shares much less in common with its neighbour to the southwest than you might think. In 2008, at least, there were no 7-11s, no t-shirts boasting Heidi Klum’s naked back and middle finger (a Khao San favourite in those days), and at least 75% fewer buckets* per person.

Striking a pose in front of Khone Phapheng Falls.

I had met my travel buddies, Katie and Keli, British ladies on their way back from a year in Australia, on the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. That was where we would start our two-day slowboat journey down the Mekong River and into the heart of Laos. After 10 days traveling through peaceful Luang Prabang, dionysiac Vang Vieng, and sleepy Vientenne, we decided to set off for the 4,000 islands together. Kelly, Keli and Katie. We bid adieu our other Laos travel companions — they were headed off to Vietnam — and went south.

We landed our first night on the island of Don Det. But, with no other backpackers to be found, decided to head over to Don Khong as soon as possible for what we hoped would be a livelier time. First thing the next morning we loaded all our worldly possessions into a large canoe-type boat with a motor on the end and set off, the water around us murky brown, like the colour of milk chocolate gone rancid.

Our boat floated lazily downriver, guided slowly by the puttering motor, passing linked islands, their foliage spilling out into the water. The world here is flat, nothing but palm trees separate island and sky. Guesthouses pepper the shore, raised up on stilts. Some of them have brown, thatched roofs; others red or blue plastic tiles to protect them from the elements. Most have hammocks swinging on their balconies.

4,000 Islands

After arriving on Don Khong, we spent the better part of an hour searching for a place to sleep. All the huts were dingy and beat up. I would safely say there wasn’t an air conditioning unit around for miles. We didn’t come across many backpackers either, so we decided to spend only one more night there and leave for Cambodia first thing in the morning. By this logic, we were satisfied with a small room, boasting one double bed (to squeeze the three of us in), a couple stringy hammocks on the balcony, and the not unfamiliar combo of hole in floor + sink = bathroom. If memory serves, this particular hole was surrounded by shiny blue tile; a classy touch. After arranging for early morning transportation off the island and over the border, we rented some bikes and began to explore.


After taking pictures at the waterfall, we had hoped to rent a boat and be taken to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, (a breed that lives in brackish or freshwater), but our leisurely pace had set us behind. Twilight was creeping nearer, and the boat drivers wouldn’t take anyone out this close to dark. So we turned back around and bike through the palm trees and past the vibrant green fields back to our guesthouse. Katie’s chain fell off her bike about fifteen minutes into our return journey.

Our bike path on Don Khong.

My hands got all greased up trying to repair Katie’s chain. Locals we passed on the way tried to help as well, but the chain was broken; there was no fix. We decided to take turns on the broken bike, one foot on a pedal, the other foot pushing and coasting, pushing and coasting. Although we didn’t have enough light to make it to see the dolphins, we should have had plenty of light to get home before dark. But a sign poking out of a window just off the road reading ‘Authentic Italian Pizza’ distracted us from our journey. We couldn’t resist stopping.

A margherita and two quattro formaggis later, the sun had set and we were on our way again, now in the pitch black dark. It seems to be pizza > safety, every time. Fortunately, between the three of us we miraculously had two items that glowed. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop Katie from almost biking head on into a water buffalo. At least none of us fell into a rice field (though it got uncomfortably close).

It was about nine thirty at night by the time we road in, elated and exhausted. We laid our bikes up against the shop we’d borrowed them from and surveyed the near deserted pathway. Lights glowed from only a few buildings. We wandered down until we found the island’s internet cafe. Settling in, they reminded us of the electricity curfew of the entire island. Lights off at ten o’clock. (Yes, the entire island, believe it or not, turns off at 10 p.m.) We spent 10 minutes checking Facebook, then, realizing the time, headed to a little shop nearby to buy candles. It was now quarter to ten, just enough time to return to a our wee little room, brush our teeth, and tuck ourselves in before the entire island went dark.

Candles in hand, we walked down the path to our guesthouse and up the three steps to our balcony, still buzzing from our broken bike ride, unlocked the front door and flicked on the lights. And there it was…

Inside our mosquito net.

Four inches long.




Four legs angled to jut out of its front half and another four jutting out the back. Not round, but rectangle shaped; gigantic; hairy; brown; spider. I repeat, inside our mosquito net. And yes, with ten minutes until the whole island was to go dark.

I’ve always been afraid of spiders, my whole life. And, apparently, so have Keli and Katie. We screamed, I am not proud to say; then we stared: at each other, at the spider, our mouths gaping open and closed, silently, in utter shock. This is no good. I watch as tears roll down Katie’s cheeks and I try to gather enough breath in my lungs to stop my hands from shaking violently. This response is not rational, I know. But today does not appear to be the day that any of us conquer an irrational phobia. So what are we going to do? We’ll sleep on the balcony. That’s the only option. But it’s not an option. Our bags are on the floor, we can’t leave them there, open, unattended. There are only two hammocks on the balcony and they’re scrawny as hell. And God only knows what could crawl on us out there. Someone needs to get rid of the spider. It has to go. We need to sleep in that bed. But I won’t move it. Keli won’t move it. Katie won’t move it. Fine, we won’t sleep. We’ll stay up all night, smoking our dollar packs of cigarettes, swinging on the rickety plastic hammocks. No. No. We’ll go get help. There’s got to be someone who can help us.

I instruct Keli to stay put and watch the furry monstrosity. Don’t let your eyes stray from it, or it could move and then where will we be? Stare at it. Don’t even blink. Katie and I grasp on to each other, still shaking, and head for the road, back to the cafe. We spot an older couple chatting with a guy in his late twenties. Excuse us. Is there… Could you… could you possibly do us a huge favour? They initially regard us with concern (it was probably the tears) but after we explain the situation, they simply laugh.

We guide them back; the young man has agreed to remove it for us and the couple wants to watch. Keli is still standing at the entrance of our room, petrified. There, we point… inside the mosquito net. The young man looks inside the room. The three of us edge backwards. The older couple giggles at our state. The man pulls a tissue out of his pocket and steps inside. My eyes burn as I try to remain calm. We’re too far back on the balcony now to see what’s going on. He’s in the room just a second, but by the time he comes out, we’ve crammed ourselves into the furthest possible edge of the balcony corner. Got it. He stretches his arm, and spider-encased hand, out toward us, teasing, but is met with shrieks high enough to communicate with stray dogs on the other side of the island before he can even fully straighten out his elbow. Seeing our fear, he rescinds the gesture.

Thank you. Thank you. We couldn’t have… Oh my God, thank you so much.

We have about two minutes ’til lights out now. The emanate terror is gone, but every dark corner holds a new, unknown threat. I pick gingerly through my bag, poised to react at a moments notice, and pull out a long sleeve t-shirt and pants — clothes inappropriately warm and packed mostly for plane rides — but I need to cover as much skin as possible. I pee into the blue tiled hole, eyes peeled on every corner of the room. I brush my teeth and slip into bed next to Katie, who under the pretence of being the most frightened managed to score the middle spot. Keli’s laid out candles on the window sill and I watch them burn as we tuck in every corner of the mosquito net, our sole protection from the outside world and all its creatures. Katie plays music from a small speaker. We speak in hushed tones, as if loud noises might stir other figments of our nightmares. I lay awake, watching the candles melt, drip, and, slowly, go out.

The next morning, after a sleep even more fitful than one an overnight bus blasting The Beach on repeat, we pack our bags and head to the boat. As we settle in to the passenger van that will take us to Kratie, Cambodia, my long Canadian legs squished against the back of the driver’s seat, we talk about our plans to stay the night somewhere, not only air conditioned, but in a building, made of cement, on the top floor. The mini bus revs on and we begin our journey across another boarder, happy to be leaving Laos. Little do we know, the first thing to greet us on the other side will be a platter of barbecued tarantulas resting atop a smiling Cambodian woman’s head. Maybe it’s time to conquer that fear after all?


* bucket – a mixture of Sang Som (Thai whiskey), coca-cola, and red bull (the illegal in North America kind) served in a colourful plastic bucket (think children’s sand pail) with many straws meant for sharing (or not) and causing its imbibers to get incredibly fucked up.

A water buffalo.

Every Tuesday I’ll be doing a new Travelback instalment. It’ll will likely be different every week — sometimes a list, sometimes an essay, sometimes just highlights or photos. A huge dream of mine is to write about travel and the world… Okay, well, I’m already living that dream, so I should specify: a huge dream of mine is to get paid to write about such things. This exercise may be a bit self-indulgent, but ultimately I want to work my travel writing muscle to the point that it’s strong enough to entertain and inspire you. As such, I hope you enjoy. xo Kelly.

Memories of Paris

I’ve been to Paris twice. The first in September of 2007 and the second in November of 2007. It was on the same backpacking trip and the only destination I circled through twice. When I first arrived in Paris, in September, from Vancouver, my heart and my head were full of expectations. So full that I’d forgotten to fill them with directions from the airport to my hostel. I was traveling with a not entirely pleasant girl who kept barking at me to, instead of my somewhat broken but mostly passable French, ask for directions to the 10th Arrondissement in English.

After an hour or so of asking random Parisians on the street — On cherche Rue la Fayette! Savez-vous où est le hostel Peace and Love?* — and, mind you, we were actually fumbling closer to our destination… I finally broke and consulted a hotel desk clerk… in English. She directed us to a bus and, relieved, we got on. I remember Rhianna’s “Umbrella” was playing over the speakers, but in my jet lag-addled brain, the words sounded French. Figuring they must have recorded a different version for this iconic country, I said as much to my travel mate. She sneered and I listened more closely: “When the sun shines we shine together…” Oh. Well, that settles that then.

*Not “Paix et Amour”, but Peace and Love — obviously catered to travellers and missing from any well-to-do Parisian’s radar.

Effiel Tower from the 10th Arrondissement
The view from Peace and Love hostel and my first time seeing the Effiel Tower live.

What I know now is that the Paris Metro system runs from the airport I landed at (CDG) and meets a connecting line that would take us a block from where we were going. But I had an overly-confident attitude heading into my first backpacking trip, stemmed likely from travels with my parents to various countries — some of which I don’t even remember but figured, surely, that the ability to travel well rested within my blood. And, perhaps, also, I assumed Paris would take me in, accept me as its own. I knew I belonged there, so shouldn’t the city know it, too?

Whatever confidence I assumed my blood to be filled with, it certainly wasn’t there three days later as I sat, crumpled, at a dusty train station, halfway to Versailles to visit some long-lost cousins. Crumpled because of construction closing the train line and deterring me from carrying on. Crumpled because I didn’t know now where to go. Crumpled, dreaming about returning home. I arrived in Paris expecting to be swept up, but Paris laughed at my romanticism. It chewed me up, spat me out, and kicked dirt on top of me.


When I returned to Paris two months later, everything was different. My maddeningly passive aggressive trip mate had returned to Canada, taking with her 300 dollars that she would never return and any sense of obligation I had to anyone. Paris, the second time, was going to be mine.

I selected a bunk in a large co-ed room at the 3 Ducks Hostel; this time in the 15th Arrondissement, a 25 minute stroll to the Effiel Tower. Their policy was ‘no outside alcohol’ as to promote sales at the bar, but we snuck 97¢ bottles of France’s best non-champagne region sparkling in anyways. We played Kings Cup/Ring of Fire/Sociables with the harshest rules: anyone who swears gets that word written on their face in sharpie. I learned how to roll cigarettes.

The two people I remember most were an American girl and an Australian boy. Though I was only 20 at the time, I remember thinking they were so young. They must have been 18 but to a 20 year old as wise and experienced as I, they were children. I was jealous of them, though, as the American girl would spend our pre-drinking evenings reading French newspapers, analyzing and translating every single word — the Australian boy was invited to look over her shoulder, but I was not. She was living in the hostel and in Paris for an indefinite amount of time. Part of me wanted to be her.

One day the Australian boy and I made plans to sightsee. First, we made our way to the Catacombs. Over time I’ve been told they can often be severely backed up with tourists, but on this brisk day in early November, we walked straight in. Straight in then down and down and down and around the winding steps. Unsurprisingly it is quiet down there, muted. There is something special about being underground. It is the opposite of the thrill and unease you feel while flying. There is comfort in the depths, familiarity. Even in the dim atmosphere there were still tourists behind us that yelled and shouted. So we kept our voices hushed and our pace slow, losing them for several minutes of quiet until another group rushed by.

The amount of bones is staggering. Skulls on skulls on femurs and fibulas and thousands of other human puzzle pieces. Despite the stacks of deconstructed skeletons, it wasn’t at all scary or terrifying. More contemplative than anything. I read every plaque but I couldn’t now tell you a word of what they said. The bones of six million people.

Once we emerged from under the city (and after we found the nearest crepe truck), the metro whisked us off to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. If you can visit on an overcast fall day, I suggest you do just that. Crisp leaves and dark skies are the perfect setting for visiting the above-ground dead. Most cemeteries around the world could put their Canadian counterparts to shame, but of all the storied haunts I’ve wandered through across the world, this one stays in my memory the most. The best set designer in Hollywood could not mimic the grandeur of Père-Lachaise. Perhaps because the atmosphere is so dense with history, with devotion. This is a place where you have to die as somebody. Père-Lachaise elevates your artistry in death and the tombstones reiterates that.

We hovered by Jim Morrison’s grave, giving the French teenagers space to smoke their In Memoriam cigarettes and listen to The Doors through their headphones. I put on red lipstick and kissed Oscar Wilde’s grave. The Australian boy took a picture on his camera but never sent it to me.


I tell anyone who will listen that one day I will live in Paris. You could play a game in my home of ‘count the Effiel Towers.’ Including photographs and magazine cutouts and artwork and postcards and my metre high statue, there might be 2o. Or more. It is a cliché, I know. I am Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. I am Carrie Bradshaw in season six, but I don’t skip out on dinners in my honour to please a man. Magic lives in those streets and I want to be a part of it.

They say Paris is for lovers, but that’s not true. Paris is for anyone who wants to believe. In something. In anything. Be it love, magic, history… death. When you go to Paris — or when you go back — I suggest you leave everything behind. Bring a map and if you can’t resist it, a camera. Speak in broken French. Get lost. Make new friends. Avoid anywhere playing Rhianna. Smoke cigarettes outside cafés and drink the cheapest sparkling you can find… on the street, by the Effiel Tower, by yourself or with that bloke you met at your hostel. The magic of Paris is what you make of it. It won’t present itself to you, you must seek it out instead. I imagine Paris as a bridge troll, not allowing you to pass until you have given it something. Not money or trinkets, but something of yourself. Blood, tears, dignity. Perhaps that can be said of all great cities, they take nearly just as much as they give. But sometimes, I think, Paris gives just a little bit more.


Every Tuesday I’ll be doing a new Travelback instalment. It’ll will likely be different every week — sometimes a list, sometimes an essay, sometimes just highlights or photos. A huge dream of mine is to write about travel and the world… Okay, well, I’m already living that dream, so I should specify: a huge dream of mine is to get paid to write about such things. This exercise may be a bit self-indulgent, but ultimately I want to work my travel writing muscle to the point that it’s strong enough to entertain and inspire you. As such, I hope you enjoy. xo Kelly.

Film Review: In Your Eyes

The red string of fate is an East Asian belief, where, according to myth, the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another. These two people, connected by thread, are destined lovers, regardless of place, time, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break. 



In Your Eyes is pure, unadulterated romance. In a genre that seems often to be ignored as its own entity, In Your Eyes soars as it follows Rebecca and Dylan’s love story, that of two broken people destined to be with one another. 

FINALLY! I ranted earlier this year about a severe lack of good romantic films. Just romance. Not comedy, not indie, not framed around a high-stakes action plot (though those movies are great, too), but just romance. In Your Eyes delivers.

Written by Joss Whedon, directed by Brin Hill, and starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes is the second feature from Bellwether Pictures, a production company founded by Joss Whedon and his wife Kai Cole. Apparently Joss* wrote the script back in the early 90s, which makes perfect sense for his oeuvre, this film fitting perfectly in with the hopeless love tone set in the early years of Buffy.

I don’t think romance gets enough credit. These days they either get segregated to comedy or drama or Nicholas Sparks. It wasn’t even until about halfway way through In Your Eyes that I even realized I was watching a hard romance. I thought, as advertised, that I was in for an indie offering.

I believe that “indie” means two different things. The first being the budget and the second referring to a type of genre. To me the genre that an “indie” film is, is coming-of-age. Meaning, what is more important than the technical genre (comedy, romance, sci-fi, etc.), is that our lead character learns a lesson and grows as a human being. (Even just the last few indie films I’ve seen, St. Vincent, Obvious Child, The Skeleton Twins, all stand by this.) In Your Eyes is not an “indie” romance film. It is a romance. The characters main purpose is not to grow, but to find each other.

I guess I’m expounding on this** because I don’t remember the last time I saw a pure romance. Something that swept me up and took me away and made me fall in love. (I’ve seen plenty of great indies with romance — Zoe Kazan starring in many of them — but, they’re blends of coming-of-age or comedy, not the straight to the veins, hard dose of hopeless that In Your Eyes is***.)

They’re a rare breed and they’re often not given the time or the credit they deserve because romance is perceived as “girly” and therefore less worthy. (Don’t even get me started on defending The Notebook in film school. It saddens me greatly that our film theory professor would not — or, at least, hadn’t yet and wasn’t interested in — watching the most successful film of the son of John God Damn Cassavetes. (But there were other battles to be fought, like the lack of inclusion of Amelie, Moulin Rouge, and many other female or romance driven films, on the lists of the ‘greatest films’ that were handed out to us.) Romance is a genre that is worthy and In Your Eyes is a film that deserves to be included in lists of the best. In fact, I would place In Your Eyes between The Notebook and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as one of the best romances I have ever seen. 

I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot, in fact I don’t even recommend watching the trailer. But I will tell you this: In a romance you must place obstacles in front of your soulmates. Real obstacles, not contrived ones. They must feel unsurmountable but — as the story progresses — not repetitive. And Joss Whedon and Brin Hill do this with aplomb; they’re patient, holding back until we’re no longer sitting on the edge of our seat, but fallen to the floor, eyes welling, knuckles white, breath held. The whole cast does a splendid job. While Zoe Kazan is luminous, as always, Michael Stahl-David will infiltrate your dreams. He is charming and handsome and kind. And it being a Joss Whedon script, there are no hints of misogyny from our romantic hero. Once you embrace the romance genre — that is if you can… I will no longer argue with men (or women) over things they don’t or won’t choose to understand, instead sharing things with the people who do — this film is perfect. I can’t wait to watch it again.

Take these words with a grain of salt, if you will. It’s all coming from a preternaturally effusive romantic with Shakespeare tattooed on her wrist and Klimt prints on her walls, but I loved In Your Eyes from all the way from its touching start to its unapologetic end. This is the romance film I’ve been waiting for.

You can find the film on Netflix, iTunes, or rent it here, on their website.


Real love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. It’s blood screaming inside you to work its will.

– Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

*We’re on a first name basis because write for the job you want?

**Also, Vulture put In Your Eyes on a list of great indie rom-coms. Great, yes. Indie rom-com, no.

***You could argue that In Your Eyes is actually a fantasy-romance, but if we’re being honest, aren’t all romances a fantasy? And though the elements of fantasy in this film veer into science fiction, sure, this film navigates them so well that it always feels like reality. (And what do we know, maybe for some it is?)

Film Review: Dear White People

Satire is the weapon of reason. 


Dear White People is the first feature film from writer/director Justin Simien. Funded partially by Indiegogo, the film was released in the States on Oct. 17th, but only made it to Vancouver, Canada last Friday. If you haven’t been following my myriad anticipatory tweets, please click here to watch the trailer.

Set at the fictional Winchester University, Dear White People follows four college students as they navigate life as a ‘black face in a white place.’ Two men. Two women. Three straight. One gay. The boxes are ticked, but the characters never feel as if they were created to take a side. Each one is a nuanced, dynamic individual with his or her own opinions, motivations, and struggles.

I’ll get into race in a minute, but first let’s get one thing clear: Dear White People is a fantastic movie. 

It would undermine Simien’s acerbic, modern, and hilarious script to talk about the “issues” first. Yes, Dear White People is a satire about race… on the surface. But that’s not what the film is really about. It’s actually a coming of age film about four people — kids, essentially — in their early twenties, trying to figure out who they are. Simien does not judge their actions or frame them so the audience has to choose a side; he makes sure that their insecurities (and supervening actions) come from an authentic place. His dialogue is brilliant, fast paced, and, dare I say, hip? For lack of a better term, what I mean is, Simien captures how Gen Y speaks, and what about, but makes it film-worthy i.e. funnier, more intelligent, and just as self-serving. It’s also beautifully shot (with an opening that would make Wes Anderson proud), impeccably scored, and wonderfully acted (What up, Veronica Mars alumnus!). Also, big kudos to the wardrobe and hair & makeup folks; I covet everything Sam wore.

But, ultimately, what makes this film so important — and what makes it a social satire — is that while navigating their collegiate lives and trying to figure out what kind of people they’re going to be, the colour of our leads’ skin defines their journey. But it shouldn’t. And that’s the point.


White privilege — like feminism and other hot button words — seems to mean different things to different people. (In the new times that are the wild west of the world wide web, a division of language is a terrifying thing), but I’ll push that thought aside for now and explain the meaning of what, I’ve come to understand, is ‘white privilege.’ 

Beyond being treated differently (based on the colour of your skin), white privilege is the inability to comprehend what someone who is not you, who is not white, is going through, has gone through, and will continue to go through in their every day lives.

This privilege can also extend to wealth, sexual orientation, nationality, and gender. I, personally, only recently came to understand the need to stand up for feminism because of my own Canadian privilege — growing up in a very lovely bubble where I wasn’t treated differently for being a girl. Yes, I’m still unpacking all the various, often invisible ways I’ve been affected by misogyny but growing up in this country, in this time, with this body has given me an easy path.

What I’m trying to say is, while Lionel, Sam, Troy, and Coco are simply trying to figure out their own identities, society (Winchester College, their peers, their parents, the media) expect them to dictate themselves through their race. While in Canada* many of us look around and shake our heads, understanding that race doesn’t define a person, these stereotypes, these assumptions, these beliefs (about race, gender, sexuality) are so prevalent the world over that this conversation is not even close to being over.

*Canada is not perfect. We have A LOT to work on, but it’s not black vs. white up here (which is what the States appears to be, or at least us vs. them — ‘us’ being white people and ‘them’ being everyone else. (To which I say, your country was built on immigration, get with the fucking program. And, also, all humans are equal. Duh.))

Dear White People is important for two big reasons:

  1. It’s a fantastic coming of age independent feature written and directed by a promising new talent. Justin Simien wrote this script, shot a trailer for $2,000, brought it to Indiegogo (raising $40,ooo), garnered enough attention to attach an independent producer, directed it for waaay under a million dollars, got it into Sundance and across the world. Now that’s impressive. The film navigates its four different leads’ story with grace, charm, and wit. Not to mention it’s really fucking entertaining.
  2. It asks us to question what we know, what we believe to be true. It asks us not to define people by the way they look. It questions ‘post-racial America’ and (hopefully) demands of us to continue examining this issue instead of passively shrugging that ‘it’s over.’

There are so many more things to talk about here. There is so much turmoil in the States (and the rest of the world). There is so far to go in the entertainment industry. Chris Rock’s recent essay reminds us how ‘white’ the industry is. An industry that acts as society’s mirror, showing us who people are, what to believe and how to act. This is a conversation we need to continue to have.

Just go see the movie because it’s really good. It’s an independent feat and an impressive debut. Then, if you take something more from it, great. Remember, while society tries — and sometimes succeeds — in dictating the lives of the characters in the film Dear White People, in reality it also dictates our beliefs (often without our knowledge). Racism is learned and taught. And film & television often replicate these learned bad behaviours… especially the most subtle, insidious ones. This place that we call home isn’t quite as post-racial/sexist/homophobic as we like to believe it is. And if a smart, funny, sweet film can make us a little more aware of that, then it’s a good place to start.

Trailer of the Day – “Comet”

Written and directed by Sam Esmail, Comet, released December 5th in the U.S. (I don’t know of its Canadian release.) is, according to its IMDb page, a Comedy/Drama/Romance.

“Set in a parallel universe, Comet bounces back and forth over the course of an unlikely but perfectly paired couple’s six-year relationship.”

Take a look and then we’ll talk… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp9VI8Rg_2U   OMG. This trailer is so perfect, so EVERYTHING, that I’m afraid I’m being punked — that it’s actually a short film designed to make hopeless romantic hipster-inclined fools like me work themselves into a tather over the Another Eternal Sunshine Starcrossed Magical Wonder of it all. Sometimes I think my favourite part of the entire filmmaking process/industry/whatever is trailers. It’s such an art. There’s something so magical about a brilliantly cut trailer — and if the film can actually stand up to it (Which is something I feel doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.), if the film is actually better than its incredible trailer, that is real movie magic. Long story short, I cannot wait for this film. It inspires me to direct; it makes me want to fall in love; it makes me forget about… well, everything. And that’s the point, isn’t it? To be swept away? Some people create art to provoke, to challenge, to confuse. I create art to entertain, to wrap you up in a different world for 20, 30, 90 minutes… And I appreciate it when others do the same (and side effects of inspiration are also greatly welcome). Have you re-watched The Garden State trailer recently? You should. It has got to be one of the best trailers of all time. *Thanks, Cait, for showing this trailer to me.

Why “You’re the Worst” is ABSOLUTELY the BEST

The rom-com sitcom you have been waiting for.

18970Now I don’t exactly want to take back my rant on why A to Z deserves another season, buuuut… since I discovered FX(X)’s You’re the Worst I’ve lost my appetite for romcomsitcom works-in-progress. Unlike all of its network contemporaries, You’re the Worst arrived fully formed and brilliant. (And so much closer to my real life than any of the network shows’ shiny, happy worlds.*) Created by the extremely talented Stephan Falk, You’re the Worst — unlike A to Z — doesn’t need time to grow as a series, it’s already a full blown adult — a drunk, whiney, acting like it’s still on the right side of 30 adult, mind, but an adult none the less.

*Don’t get me wrong: I love shiny, happy things. But sometimes, at least these days, I prefer to see fuck-ups like myself onscreen, as opposed to perfectly coiffed lawyers — and their similarly gainfully employed ilk — all of whom never seem to actually work at their jobs.

Kether Donohue, Aya Cash, Chris Ceere, Desmin Borges

Sometimes I forget that TV can do new things. There’s drama and there’s comedy and there’s HBO half hour “comedy.” In my brain, that is how I perceive television series: divided into those three categories. Maybe it’s because I watch a lot of network television. Network television doesn’t try many new things. (Sure, there are dozens of examples to the contrary but, in a sea of thousands, the innovative usually drown.) Half hour cable, too, often follows standard sitcom structures: Broad City, VEEP, It’s Always Sunny, Benched… But You’re the Worst doesn’t worry as much about half-hour comedy structure. (Maybe this is the FX’s M.O.? After all, it is the home of Louie.) If feels more like Californication or, perhaps, even more appropriately, like an indie (coming of age / romance / comedy) film allowed to breathe over 10 episodes. It’s looser and darker than a sitcom and it rarely wraps things up all neat and tidy by episode’s end. I love You’re the Worst because it’s about people who don’t want to grow up… but sometimes do… then don’t… and are just generally confused about the whole thing. The writers pass no judgment on their actions — they just let them screw up royally and organically. And it’s really fucking funny. If I could use one picture to describe the show it would be this: Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 1.17.48 PM That smile is the smile of grownup accomplishment. Feeling shitty about her life, after a huge fight with her best friend, and coming down off a coke high, Gretchen purchases a food processor (the ultimate sign of adulthood) and rummages through her kitchen for ingredients to make something — in continuance on her journey to pulled-together grownup-ity — and finds… vodka and ice cubes. The characters on You’re the Worst are vodka ice smoothies made in expensive food processors: from afar all you hear is the expensive whirl of a responsible kitchen appliance and as you squint to make out its contents: grey fondant to spread over a winter themed birthday cake? caviar paté? it all looks kosher, but up close the truth is evident: they’re merely all thrown-together cocktails full of empty, if occasionally well-intentioned, drunken promises — the first gulp might make your eyes water, but as you near the bottom of the glass you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with fancy liquors and liqueurs in first place when quick, low-calorie friendship was at your fingertips all along. They share my uncertainties about life, writing, marriage, relationships, friendships… This show feels like coming home. I love it. I love it. I love it. And I think you will too.


If you’re in the same corner of the Pacific Northwest as me, just concede to the rainy weekend right now: buy a bottle of whiskey, several bags of chips and settle in and enjoy. Elsewhere? Schedule a time to binge watch all 10 episodes as soon as possible. It’s going to be your new favourite, I promise. And if you need me, I’ll be over here, humbly writing my You’re the Worst season two spec…

Why A to Z deserves renewal. (Listen up, NBC!)

NBC announced at the beginning of this month that it would not be ordering any more episodes of A to Z. The trades quickly reported that it, along with its timeslot partner and fellow NBC non-orderee, Bad Judge, had been cancelled. Reports that were immediately followed by pangs of regret slicing through the hearts of millions of viewers, “Great,” we thought, “another failed relationship. I can’t believe I talked myself into believing this one would last.” Then, like a friendly text in the middle of the day, (Not late at night! He/she must still love me!) executive producer Rashida Jones took to Twitter to say this,

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 5.24.38 PM
HOPE! Hope?

So, wait. Could this beautiful thing we have going could actually last?!? As an EW article wonderfully put it: “It’s like in The Princess Bride: There’s dead, and there’s mostly dead. A to Z is mostly dead.” Maybe we do have a future after all! True love is real! (This is coming from a girl with a “Westley Never Dies” t-shirt, so please keep you salt shaker full of grains nearby.) BUT, this tweet does send hope that NBC could change their minds and give A to Z a second season — that their cold, calculating executive hearts might just give us, the viewers of A to Z, a shot.

I’m choosing to believe in that hope — (But I also believe in the power of social media, so click here to like A to Z on Facebook and here to follow them on Twitter.) —  but what I don’t believe in is asking for things you don’t deserve, SO, today is the day I tell you why A to Z deserves to stay on the air…

This season of fall television brought us an uncommon amount of RomComSitcoms. With Marry Me, Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, and A to Z on the docket, us romantic comedy aficionados were buzzing with anticipation. But then they began to premiere…


Selfie was… okay. John Cho is brilliant, always, but the plot of the pilot played out like a marginal feature film squished into 21 and a half minutes. I loved Suburgatory and wish only the best for Emily Kapnek (and do think the show is rather cute/fun), but keeping Selfie on the air is not the battle I’m fighting today.

Then came Manhattan Love Story. Oh, MLS, what’s there to say? Your creator used to write for Just Shoot Me! and Spin City, both great shows. But —  what’s that!? — said creator just came off 21 episodes of Two and a Half Men?  Yeah, it *ahem* shows. Offensive. Unimaginative. And, just plain old boring. (Also, WHO CARES IF A DUDE SAW YOU “PICKING YOUR TEETH”??? Seriously. This show. I can’t ev — I digress…)

Marry Me is… Well, I can tell you what’s it’s not. It’s not Happy Endings. And while I realize that’s not fair… not fair at all, I’m still in the anger/denial stages of my mourning*, so I can’t be held accountable for my passive disappointment toward it. (Will it stick around to see a full season? I’m 50/50 on this one.)

Last, but obviously the very opposite of least or else what would the point of this article be?, is A to Z, sweet, lovely, A to Z: the reduced-sugar apple pie of television shows — you know, like the kind your friend who spent all her tax return money on a Vitamix would make: delicious, but not entirely bad for you. Can you taste the coconut oil?

*Time does not heal all wounds.

A to Z - Season Pilot
Hot dogs! Small dogs! Doe-eyed romantic leads!

The romantic comedy sitcom is a hard thing to nail. While the “will they or won’t they” couple trope is practically written in blood onto every comedy showrunner’s contract, a show revolving around two paramours is dangerous. If the show is entirely about their relationship, every argument can suddenly seem contrived. We know they can’t break up — it’s a rom com sitcom after all — so why are they trying so hard to keep them apart/fighting?!

Now A to Z doesn’t completely sidestep this pitfall and it isn’t perfect — not by any means — but it’s a damn good start. (And, come on, how many sitcoms are perfect right away? New Girl took half a season; Parks & Rec didn’t kick off until it’s second year.)

The point being, while A to Z does need a little more time to find its true footing, it’s still fun, playful, and holds so much potential. IT DESERVES TO STICK AROUND, NBC. It doesn’t play into outdated gender stereotypes (Manhattan Love Story, Marry Me) or fabricate absurd fights to keep their leads apart (ditto), but it also isn’t blatantly subverting tropes just for the sake of it. The creator, Ben Queen, and the writers and producers have created full, dynamic characters. The show is fresh, thoughtful, and smart. It gives us human beings: flawed, weird, predictable and surprising.


The world of television is rapidly changing. Selling to Netflix is the new syndication. Trending on Twitter is the new sign of success. So why are networks still so concentrated on numbers? Yes, NBC is arguably one of the most linear networks. Their biggest numbers come from The Voice and sporting events (some of the last things people are still tuning in live to — except for Shonda shows, but that’s a different blog altogether). So it’s not surprising NBC has decided not to put trust in a show with potential. But, still, you would think that the network that brought you some of the greatest sitcoms of all time would strive to build and nurture promising comedies… at least a little bit? What NBC needs to realize is in the new wild west television landscape, quality is winning. The model of pouring millions of dollars into a series only to turn around and cancel it isn’t working anymore. Netflix and cable have it right: find a project you love, nurture it, then trust… Of course, that’s never going to work 100% of the time, but besides the last season of Parks & Rec, NBC is sitting with About a Boy, Undateable, Welcome to Sweden, and Marry Me. Not a lineup that inspires confidence; (Amy Poehler and her relations aside.) Time to start pouring some love and care into a series that fans have jumped onto and critics have enjoyed, hmm?


I do think A to Z needs to work on/do a few things differently. It needs to decide more clearly on its tone and subsequently magnify it. It needs to use its magnificent supporting cast far more. It needs to pump up the jokes. And it needs to have even more fun — bigger set pieces, more absurd situations — while keeping the characters down to earth and in touch with the oddball charm it has already instilled in them. Needing finessing is not a bad thing. With the solid foundation already built, this show can only get better and better.

I hope the outcrying on Twitter and Facebook has already made the NBC execs take notice. I won’t even be mad if they keep this season order at 13 — as long as season two is given a go ahead. With 26 letters in the alphabet, a second season of A to Z  could end perfectly on that 8 month, 5 week, 3 day, 1 hour cliffhanger of “will they or won’t they.” (As the perfectly cast Katey Segal explains via voiceover in the pilot, that’s how long our couple will date for. But does that clock tick down to a break up or an engagement/marriage?) And Hollywood needs to start mimicking the British model of series length, anyways. Quality > quantity, people — I can’t say it enough.

a to z supporting cast
Parvesh Cheena and Hong Chau, Ben Falcone and Christina Kirk, brilliant actors deserving of A Plots. A move towards ensemble comedy, anyone?

If you’re not already watching and in America, catch up on Hulu or NBC.com. If you’re in Canada, well, I’m not saying illegally download it, but… (in perhaps some weird conspiracy???**) A to Z is not available on Shaw on Demand, on Global TV’s website, and only the first two episodes are available on iTunes (when six have aired). So find a way to watch it now — then find a way to support it monetarily later.

**Bad Judge — the other show NBC hasn’t ordered more episodes from — is available on all of these platforms. What gives? Is this some wide, Canada-based conspiracy to keep A to Z from finding more fans?

If you haven’t seen A to Z and love comedies, rom or otherwise, this is the one to watch. If you already love A to Z, make your voice heard. We are the viewers. We deserve good television. Good stories deserve to keep being told — even if it takes a little time and faith. And if NBC gives us an initial 13 episodes of a television series and we love it — and there’s enough of us — WE DESERVE MORE (as long as the writers and cast/crew want to keep giving it to us, which it appears they definitely do). 

NBC, take a chance. Let it breathe. Don’t throw all your money into another development season; give a charming, wonderful show a second chance. The times are changing; quality is starting to win. Let A to Z  live on; commit to this relationship and, who knows, it might be “the one” (to bring must see TV back to NBC).

Of the Week

TV: How to Get Away With Murder

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about How to Get Away With Murder.

I can’t praise this show highly enough. Seriously. It’s AMAZING! But, actually, in the effort of honesty, you probably shouldn’t trust me on this one. I am the very opposite of an impartial viewer. Because, this show, it feels like, is made specifically for me. Not one, but TWO over-arcing murder plots. Fast-paced story telling. Attractive (but not cookie-cutter) leads. Episodic trials of the week. Screaming, crying, plotting, and soapy amazingness.

It’s hard to trust in a post-Lost era, but I believe that the creator, Peter Nowalk, has it all planned out. I’m choosing not to try and figure anything out — I just want to go along for the ride. But, holy crap, HOW ARE THEY ALL CONNECTED?!? WAS IT ALL PARIS’S* FAULT?!? DID ANNALISE MAKE THEM DO IT? WHAT’S UP WITH THE GOTH CHICK?!?!!? Ahhh, is it Thursday again, yet?

(And a selfish note: I’m so happy this is doing spectacularly in the ratings, but this is exactly the type of TV show I want to make.)

*Liza Weil will never not be Paris from Gilmore Girls.



Song: “Busy Earnin'” by Jungle

According to Wikipedia, Jungle’s music has been described as, “‘midtempo 1970s-style funk’ and their music is intermixed with tropical percussion, wildlife noises, falsetto yelps, psychedelic washes and badoinking bass.” How can you not love that? They’re playing at The Imperial Vancouver this Tuesday night. The show appears to be sold out, but it would be worth trying your last minute luck as it’s going to be an incredible show.


Book: An Embarrassment of Mangoes

Since I already blogged about it twice in the past week, might as well go ahead and officially recommend this book. It’s not going to blow your mind or change your life, but it will keep you warm** on a grey fall day. While I hope you all have the opportunity to travel far and often, I know many of your days will be spent in your hometown, working hard (to save for traveling?); things can get a little monotonous, so whenever you can, treat yourself to book that will transport you somewhere else. An Embarrassment of Mangoes does just that. Ann and her husband take you all over the Caribbean on a fun, easy, and enjoyable literary sailboat ride.

**Metaphorically speaking.



Movie Trailer: The Imitation Game

Doesn’t it just make you want to pack up and move to England? (I mean like, not during WW2 or anything, but it’s just those accents and that tweed… Sigh. I might have to apply for a Visa or something.)

Anyways, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley are two of the best of their generation. This is going to be a fantastic film.

Nassau, Bahamas (Part 2)

Let’s get to the most important part right away: Sky Juice.

Sky Juice Recipe

Seriously. So good.

So after I’d walked up the Queen’s Staircase, I headed over to Fort Fincastle. It overlooks the eastern approach to New Providence, Nassau, and Paradise Island (not to mention the infamous Atlantis).


After that, I had a few places in mind but no specific plan, so I unfolded my trusty map and decided to walk in the direction of the fish fry. (Fish fry, FYI, is Nassau’s famous strip of seafood restaurants. Right on the ocean, with more options than you could ever attempt to choose from. When you head there ask a local to direct you to their favourite haunt.)

As I was wandering down through the mostly empty downtown Nassau suburbs, I bumped into a group of twenty-somethings. I’d seen them earlier (near the pirate museum, I believe), so I waved and they called me over. Turns out we were a few short blocks from a rum distillery. They invited me to join them for a tour and, naturally, I said yes.

johnny watkin's

The tour was a bit lacklustre, but the grounds were beautiful and the rum, tasty. My new friends were a group of cousins from New York and Toronto taking a family vacay together. I surreptitiously told them I was here with friends who didn’t feel like sightseeing today; (mostly true.) After siphoning as much free rum as we could, it was time to head to the fish fry. We walked straight down to the water and, in the stifling heat, decided to take a pause before turning left. Thankfully we did, because that’s when Sky Juice was discovered. (See above.)

The middle shack on the right provided the Sky Juice.

Something I hadn’t done enough of in my previous travels was ask the locals for tips. That, and take pictures of food; (yes, I’m part of that 50% percent.) Often times what the guide books recommend and what the locals suggest overlap, but it’s always worth it to ask. (Sky Juice was recommended by several different people.)

Speaking of suggestions, I knew I had to try conch while I was in the Bahamas. The book I mentioned in the previous post, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, told, in great detail, the joys and pains of eating conch. Thankfully I didn’t have to eat it myself — it requires a great deal of pulling to get it out of the shell and a great deal of beating (to tenderize) once it’s set free.


I selected the cracked conch and it was flippin’ delicious. It’s very similar to calamari, but even better — more tender, more flavourful. If you ever get the chance, you must try it.

(Disclaimer: you probably won’t have much luck at the resort. I had the same problem finding Mexican food in Cabo. They have a sushi restaurant, a steakhouse, fine French dining, but only one tiny hole in the wall for Mexican food! What up? As such, I couldn’t find any conch dishes at any of our resort’s food establishments… They did, however, have fantastic thin crust pizza.)

Then, half-cut on Sky Juice and full of conch, it was time to bid adieu to the cousins and head back to the resort. I hopped on another bus (they’re always whizzing by) and was back with plenty of time to lounge around in the pool and get ready for a big dinner out.


Bahamas, you were swell.

I don’t know how feasible it would be to travel around the Caribbean on a budget* but I do hope to make it back before I’m 50. It would be incredible to spend some time island hopping — or sailing, (after I get over my fear). Grenada in particular is calling to me.

It’s a beautiful place; and, though, despite it’s proximity to the States, it didn’t feel overrun by tourists or bereft of culture. Sure there were a lot of pander-y shops — I didn’t even mention the work day spent wandering around the hella touristy area; but if you look a little further, there’s a lot of authenticity and stunningly beautiful sights to be found.

*Budget: A personal travel guideline for the foreseeable future.

See ya around, Bahamas.