A palate-cleansing sorbet of trivialities

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Having contemplated a blogging hiatus recently, I briefly put the idea of a hiatus on hiatus. Now I am back to considering a break from it. I suppose it’s not like a store or job where you have to formally shut things down or go on sabbatical – I just follow the ‘inspiration’ for pouring out the contents of my sometimes addled mind as it (inspiration, not the mind) comes (or goes).

I am channeling this energy into an offline project that is moving forward very quickly, and it’s eating every bit of creative marrow I’ve got in my bones. Thus I will potentially write blog posts when I need to unload or unwind. It seems that my most prolific blog writing periods happen when I am thinking too much, overanalyzing and in periods of intense emotional confusion or anguish or something. (Anguish may be too strong a word, but I like it, so I will leave it.) Once free of these things, the feverish urge to blog floats away. Blogging is, in some ways, a kind of existential palate cleanser.

I finished Infinite Jest – finally. As I wrote before, I marveled at its massive depth and breadth but cannot say I liked it. It was laborious to read at times, and I could not wait for it to be finished. I am still reading six other books, though – some great and some for fun (all my ‘hone your psychic abilities’ books are in fun; I have, after all,  to fulfill the psychic destiny one of my exes claimed I had when, while hiking along for many silent hours near Háifoss in Iceland, I randomly blurted out, “Sorbet is a vegan dessert!”. He looked at me as though he’d seen a ghost, and said, “I was just right then thinking about how my grandmother used to make sorbet.”)

I watched the second season of Love on Netflix – it’s easy enough viewing but only remarkable in that “I’ll Be Your Mirror” plays at the end of one episode and made me think back to a moment in time – so very long ago – when I was briefly involved with a Polish guy who made me possibly the most eclectic music tapes ever, and I think he was the first to introduce me to the Velvet Underground (starting with this song). I also recall that he had nothing but critical disdain for the United States – but many years after we had lost contact, I discovered that, after returning to Poland for a number of years, he eventually made a permanent home in, of all places, the American South (that’s a familiar trope, though – the “America Haters” who end up living there quite comfortably in the end).

I’ve cut back immensely on the TV viewing, but there are still things I watch – such as the aforementioned Love, binged in an afternoon; Girls – I’ve hate-watched the whole series, so why would I not complete the circle by watching its final season?; The Americans – it’s one of the best shows ever, and somehow more relevant than ever… and other stuff as well, but it is true that once I broke the cycle (ha!) it seemed quite dull to return to the majority of shows I’d mindlessly been sucking in.

Otherwise, life is work, creative projects, a series of last-minute travel or guests and always hoping for sunlight over the dismally, stormy greyness that pervades today. Nice weather, too, is a palate cleanser.

Letters of the Unliving (Mina Loy)
The present implies presence
thus
unauthorized by the present
these letters are left authorless–
have lost all origin
since the inscribing hand
lost life.

The hoarseness of the past
croaks
from creased leaves
covered with unwritten writing
since death’s erasure
of the writer–
erased the lover

Well-chosen and so ill-relinquished
the husband heartsease–
acme of communion–

made euphonious
our esoteric universe.

Ego’s oasis now’s
the sole companion.

My body and my reason
you left to the drought of your dying:
the longing and the lack
of a racked creature
shouting
to an unanswering hiatus
“reunite us!”

till slyly
patience creeps up on passion
and the elation of youth
dwindles out of season.

Agony
ends in an equal grave
with ecstasy.

An uneasy mist
rises from this calligraphy of recollection
documenting a terror of dementia.

This package of ago
creaks with the horror of echo.

The bloom of love
decoyed
to decay by the finger
of Hazard the swindler–
deathly handler who leaves
no post-mortem mask
but a callous earth.

Posing the extreme enigma
in my Bewilderness
can your face excelling Adonis
have ceased to be
or ever have had existence?

With you no longer the addresser
there is no addressee
to dally with defunct reality.

Can one who still has being
be inexistent?

I am become
dumb
in answer
to your dead language of amor.

Diminuendo
of life’s imposture
implies no possible retrial
by my present self–
my cloud-corpse
beshadowing your shroud.

The one I was with you:
inhumed in chasms.
No creator
reconstrues scar-tissue
to shine as birth-star.

But to my sub-cerebral surprise
at last on blase sorrow
dawns an iota of disgust
for life’s intemperance:

“As once you were”

Withhold your ghostly reference
to the sweet once were we.

Leave me
my final illiteracy
of memory’s languor–

my preference
to drift in lenient coma
an older Ophelia
on Lethe.

Photo (c) 2008 Angela Schmeidel Randall used under Creative Commons license.

Lunchtable TV Talk: Fleabag

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That quiet lull between the summer TV season and the standard, full-throttle autumn season gave me an opportunity to watch some stuff I might not have, such as the ITV production Victoria (don’t bother – it’s kind of crap except for Rufus Sewell, who is always good even when he is given crap material to work with; still, the series was renewed for a second season) and the dark comedy self-humiliation fest that is Fleabag. Let’s not get into the fact that I also dipped my toe (oh, who am I kidding? I jumped in the deep end) into the six seasons of Sex & the City, which I had so carefully avoided during its first incarnation. Despite there being no shortage of original summer programming that began and ended in almost staggered shifts, I still found myself, at times, with an empty queue (have watched most of what interests me so far on HBO Nordic and Amazon; can only access Swedish Netflix now so there are a lot of lovely films I cannot see in my old American queue. Kind of frustrating because I was not even trying to cheat the system: I pay for both an American and a Swedish subscription).

Maybe it’s this “empty queue” idea that also drives the nameless anti-heroine of Fleabag. She’s very funny, very awkward and a total mess – and she knows it. She breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the viewer quite often, and it works. I keep seeing lazy comparisons to Bridget Jones and Girls’s Hannah Horvath – but as I write, these are just that – lazy. Our nameless mess of a woman is so much more than both and completely confident in her lack of self-confidence. (Must be – even The Economist got in on the action of writing about Fleabag.)

It’s funny, it’s ironic, it’s sarcastic, it’s pretty realistic, and in that way, it’s also heartbreaking. It somehow manages to be both the wound and the salt you pour into it yourself because you think you deserve to suffer, or like Canadian poet PK Page posits, because you believe that “suffering confers identity”. For the show’s lead, her “empty queue” is not a tv-watching list: it’s the emptiness of her life without her best friend, who has accidentally committed suicide; it’s the more distant but still fresh loss of her mother to cancer and the subsequent, if metaphorical, loss of her father to an uptight and horrible stepmother; it’s the tense but close relationship she shares with her sister. It’s mindlessly filling the emptiness with a queue of men and a, shall we say active, graphic and even rugged sex life? Sex queue as coping mechanism, and only through the six episodes do we see exactly how winding, dark and byzantine are the problems she is trying to fuck into oblivion or at least avoid.

Flea photo (c) 2014 Matt Brown.

Lunchtable TV Talk: The Code – You are only coming through in waves

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Watching TV and films is often like riding a wave. One show or film appears, and you are carried along to the next, even if by seemingly random choice, and somehow there are always connections. Many connections between the shows, many connections to other things I have watched, whether its the appearance of various actors popping up or thematic links.

The other night in sleeplessness, I stumbled on the six-part Australian TV show The Code… I’m hit immediately by recognizable visual cues. First, the appearance of Aden Young. This is the only other place I have seen Aden Young, apart from his leading role in the underwatched Rectify. I have often wondered how he acts in other things. As the startlingly weird Daniel Holden, it is hard to imagine him in any other way. I keep expecting his actual Australian accent to come out slower and more southern, like Holden’s unmistakably deliberate drawl.

Next, I stared and stared at the actor who plays the mentally unstable hacker brother, certain that I know him from somewhere. He very vaguely reminded me of the dude who was George in Grey’s Anatomy but I KNEW it was not him. But then it hit me – Manhattan! Yes, Manhattan, which will be back soon for its second season (which ties in like a gentle wave with my recent viewing of the Norwegian production, Kampen om tungtvannet, or The Saboteurs – both deal with the race toward building a nuclear bomb).

Figures that I would accidentally select something Australian immediately after seeing the Australian film Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska. It made me think of things I had not considered in years, such as reading one of Bruce Chatwin’s final books, The Songlines, during university. Without knowing of his appearance beforehand, there in the Australian Outback as an American National Geographic photographer is Adam Driver, from Girls.

And just the night before, I had seen Driver in While We’re Young, which is the latest output from Noah Baumbach. Fine-tuned Baumbach is great. Some of his stuff can be pretentious – not bad, per se, but makes you wonder what for. Nothing quite so true in that department than his widely praised The Squid and The Whale, which I had not thought of in years. I liked it but it’s definitely a “type” of movie. But I mention it now more because of this continuing wave of connection. The film was mentioned in Thursday’s episode of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, when Denis Leary’s character confuses the story of Jonah and the whale with The Squid and The Whale, which is exactly the kind of thing he’d take the piss out of (and does).

In many ways, The Code was a microcosm of the point I am trying to make – lots of disconnected threads eventually cross. The story in The Code is actually three separate threads of the same story. They cross but do not quite interweave until all the threads come together. This is a lot like what television (and film) are like – a small world full of people who inhabit many imaginary worlds. We the viewers piece them all together each time.

Lunchtable TV Talk – Dig: More subtitled entertainment

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I have been a fan of A Fine Frenzy for years. I had no idea when I started watching Dig – a show that is not (so far) great by any means, but which has enough twists and turns and depth to keep me watching – that A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol is one of its standout characters.

While it does not seem to be a great show yet, it fits squarely into the category of shows I have been considering and writing about lately – those shows that use languages other than English extensively (and thus a liberal use of subtitles). With Dig, it’s Hebrew.

Jason Isaacs often shows up in programs that are a bit too obscure and conceptual – and thus do not seem like they will be long for this world. Awake is a good example. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t bring exceptional insight to his roles. He plays grief and confusion quite well. This large cast, in addition to Isaacs and Sudol, includes some great talent; notably, Regina Taylor (also seen in The Unit and the great, long-gone but not-forgotten I’ll Fly Away), Anne Heche (also seen in Hung and Men in Trees), Lauren Ambrose (also seen in Six Feet Under and Torchwood), Richard E. Grant (also seen most recently in Downton Abbey and Girls – among a million other things) and David Costabile (also seen in Suits, Ripper Street, Breaking Bad, Flight of the Conchords, Damages and many others).

With Dig, which has a few related storylines in play in parallel, it might be too slow, too intricate and again, obscure, for most viewers. But I will give it a shot… and like every time I watch a film from Israel, wish that I knew Hebrew.

With Dig, which has a few related storylines in play in parallel, it might be too slow, too intricate and again, obscure, for most viewers. But I will give it a shot… and like every time I watch a film from Israel, wish that I knew Hebrew.

Lunchtable TV Talk – Girls: No friendship is static

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I recently read an article asking whether women being friends on TV is done right. It used HBO’s much talked-about Girls as an example and contrasted it against the “I would kill for you” friendship portrayed in one of TV’s best and most unusual comedies, Broad City. The writer argues that representations of female friendship are important and as such asks whether the characterization in Girls can be counted among representative examples.

You get no arguments from me that Girls does not make female friendship look appealing, and one could argue that the girls whose lives play out in the show are not friends. This discounts the idea that there are different and always changing dynamics in friendship that include widely swinging moods and various ebbs and flows. And different kinds of friends – fair weather friends, dyed-in-the-wool Ilana and Abbi types and everything in between. Regardless of the type of friendship, the friendship is not less real just because it does not examine and display the best of female friendship. Sometimes it is human nature unfolding at its worst and takes a sideline to individuals’ ambitions. Sometimes women friends, even the best of them, don’t tell each other everything (all kinds of reasons for this – even best friends can get very jealous and envious and a friend might like to head that off before it happens; maybe the friend feels ashamed or private about some things and can’t share with anyone – or can only share with those NOT closest to her). Like it or not, female friendship can be complicated and nasty business – just as much as it can be beautiful and life-affirming.

We have seen life-affirming in the aforementioned Ilana and Abbi in Broad City, from Leslie and Ann in Parks and Recreation and even to some degree from Jules and Ellie in Cougar Town. But not every representation is going to be the same.

Beyond this, I don’t believe it is the responsibility of any TV show to singlehandedly take on any issue. Girls does not need to be the defining source on friendship, on sex, on life in the city in your 20s any more than anyone would want or expect Modern Family to be the defining reference on gay marriage. Bottom line: we might want and even expect more from those representations that do make it to TV, but it is not ultimately their responsibility, creative or otherwise, to deliver what we want or take the moral or cultural high ground. Or even necessarily to be realistic.

With all of this said, I would argue that Girls, as the worst, whiniest, most entitled, horrible set of characters I have seen in years, is a truer representation of friendship falling apart, friends growing apart. Once-close friends drift all the time. The author of the aforementioned Indiewire piece writes that the girls in Girls don’t seem to like each other much, especially compared to earlier seasons when they seemed to genuinely care. But that is true in a group as well. Real rifts create real dislike. Hannah is annoying. I don’t see why all of them do not dislike her. Jessa is an addict and a sociopath who gets off on stirring up trouble and drama, so you can see why people would be drawn to her but then repelled. Shoshanna is annoying as hell, but sometimes you can see her faults and vulnerabilities and see how she could be adopted into the circle of friends, but at the same time she says cruel and uncalled-for things (wrapping it in a blanket of “honesty”). The Indiewire writer cites a time when Shoshanna says she “never even liked Marnie” as if that also illustrates the falsehood of these friendships. But we have all been part of a group of friends and been forced to spend time with the friends of friends – some of whom we did not much like. We did it to preserve harmony, stay in the good graces of the friends who are closest to us.

It happens – all these things happen. Especially in that period right after the late teens and in early adulthood. People start to identify their own interests and paths. They find their own footing. Of course they will not always remain close. The tendency in Girls is a common one – when other factors in your life change, you try to cling to the familiar things. New friends and interests take over, but you still seek the comfort of friendships that meant something at really intense times in your young life. But it does not have to be forever, and the more the characters let go of the past, the truer and deeper their later friendships will be and the truer they will be to themselves (the people they have developed into).

Girls is a perfect playing out of the death of the adolescent close friendship. Despite this symbolic death, it also does not mean that the actual friendship will die. It can be a lot more like an animal that sheds its skin and starts again – but then, even if the two people in the friendship are the same people, their experiences and what they bring to the friendship will be different. I can see that happening with the women in girls. No friendship is static.

The show does not, as some argue, misrepresent female friendship. It is about how very different people handle disintegration and moving on to new experience and paths.

Otherwise, Girls uses music perhaps more effectively than any other show on TV at the moment. I love that part of it. Otherwise I don’t love anything else and have find each season increasingly difficult to watch. It’s polarizing and difficult – not what I would call entertainment – but I can’t stop watching and usually recommend it to others as well.

No One Owns Your Ugly

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No, no one owns your ugly. Just you. We all have the capacity to be ugly people – and I mean ugly on the inside and in how we behave. Yesterday I quite insistently wrote that I hate listening to English people speak (unless they are using the word “dirty”), which is just a broad and ugly generalization. I had one, maybe two, specific people in mind – and my fussiness had nothing to do with their being English. Mostly it was because they whine all the time (or whinge as the English say). I have loads of lovely English friends who span the whole of England, including the varied and fascinating array of regional accents. So, yeah, I am just trying to sweep up that bit of ugly and deliver a half-assed apology. Even if there is no one to apologize to since this is just my platform for aimless rambling.

Friendship
When it comes to friendship or feeling – who is the glue? I have often described myself as the glue that holds friendships and groups of friends together. I discussed this with my brother recently – this strange sense of feeling that he and I have always had that we needed to continue making efforts when it was not really in our best interest; this sense that people do not care – even if they are or have been among your best friends – when you just fall out of their life. They don’t mind that you keep making the effort with them but if you didn’t the friendship would probably just die. And they would not mind that either. I used to be this way too – loyal, attentive and in pursuit (although I know this sounds a bit stalker-like) to a fault. Until I realized I was wasting my time. It is just another exercise in holding on to things from the past – and there is enough stuff, and are enough people, in the present to deal with. Like most things, there is a constant need to remind oneself to be in the present, the present, the present.

Friendship: TV Debate – Broad City v Girls
Considering friendship as it is portrayed on TV, I watched the most recent season of Girls on HBO. I cannot explain why I watch this show because there is absolutely nothing likeable about it. Many critics have written about the characters and how the show is somehow “realistic” even if the characters are not likeable. Creator/writer Lena Dunham gets a lot of press for creating this realistically unpleasant world in which she and her girlfriends live as well as for her penchant for on-screen nudity and willingness to show off a lot of her less-than-perfect physique. She is lovely and gifted with more talent than I can describe; more power to her. I don’t have a problem with any of this.

My problem with Girls, perhaps – and this may only reflect my wish to believe that people are not as selfish as they appear on TV – is that the characters are so painfully self-involved and totally, thoroughly up their own asses in terms of selfishness and disregard for the feelings, accomplishments, achievements, failures, insecurities and problems of others. The only character in this show who seems to have any sense of a compass in terms of how he feels about and treats others is Ray, and he is not particularly likeable either. Not that people need to be likeable (particularly on TV, where, if I face reality, most of the most memorable characters are the biggest dicks in existence from whom no one would take the kind of shit they dish out). Ray, too, is fallible – but then, aren’t we all?

Friendship, in my book, is not friendship when rendered and lived the way the friendships in Girls are. These girls are brutal to each other, they use each other, they say things to each other that no caring people would ever say. They are unsupportive and have really selfish fights. I might expect some of this behavior from adolescent, hormonal girls – but from women in their early 20s? Not so much. If a collective of women has this many problems with each other, are so hopelessly different, cannot put themselves in each other’s shoes, would rarely, if ever, go to bat for one another, delight SO MUCH in taking cracks at these “friends” when the others are not around (and the list goes on), how – oh, how – do we imagine that these girls are friends?

In some ways, yes, it’s a problem – I watch and think it’s horrible, awful and unrealistic. Critics and fans alike set the internet on fire talking about how “unrealistic” it was when Dunham’s character seduced (and rapidly destroyed a casual relationship with) a character played by Patrick Wilson last season. Such a “bedding” might not happen every minute of every day, but it is not unrealistic.

But women who decide to put up with the kind of abuse and backhanding from supposed friends that the women of Girls take episode after episode? That’s unrealistic! Maybe because these women are all insecure and troubled and selfish, they somehow can only survive and attract/maintain friendships with people who are equally shallow and self-absorbed, almost a theatre of “I can give as good as I get” of selfishness and casual cruelty. I started to wonder whether it was a reflection of how young women really are or whether it was a generational thing. Or whether this was all exaggerated because it’s a TV show. Is it possible, I thought, that young women (on TV) cannot reflect some of the genuine selfishness of youth while also still displaying genuine care and loyalty for their friends?

And that’s when I saw Broad City. I had been inundated and annoyed by ads for the Comedy Central show Broad City for weeks (these always appear between segments of The Daily Show when you watch it online). The ads really did not inspire me to watch the show – it looked a bit crass and frankly annoying like a lot of Comedy Central content. Then one Saturday afternoon I decided to give it a try. Apart from finding it quite funny, if vulgar, I found the two main characters, Ilana and Abbi, far more relatable in some ways (albeit exaggerated versions of relatable) than their Girls contemporaries – most of all because their friendship was so strong. It was obvious why these two were friends, why they turned to each other and were there for each other through thick and thin, supportive but not above the occasional poking fun at each other – not because they are spiteful, entitled assholes (as the characters in Girls feel like) but because they just know each other that well and enjoy the good-natured ribbing.

Now I am sad that Broad City’s first season is over, but endlessly relieved to see Hannah and co from Girls done with their third season. Certainly it says more about me and what I think friendship is – or what TV should be – than it does about the quality of either show. (And it does not say much in my defense that I keep watching stuff I really don’t like. I can’t help myself. What would I complain about otherwise? How could I maintain a robust hate list? I don’t have a monopoly on it, but I have to keep myself ugly somehow; I own my ugly, after all.)

I finally found someone uglier than you, A.M.” – Olli

Pretty (Ugly Before)” – Elliot Smith

TV overdoses, past and present – Random stream of consciousness

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According to HuffPost the best line uttered on tv in 2013 was, “Not great, Bob!”

““Not great, Bob!” It was only three words, spoken by an angry Pete Campbell as he joined the ever-sunny Bob Benson in an elevator on Mad Men.””

As someone who loves any line that involves “Bob” (e.g. “I used to have a pretty good pen, Bob.” Or “Scarves, Bob? His life will be filled with scarves?”), I agree. Especially because I am, like most, a Mad Men fan – and possibly an even bigger fan of the work James Wolk has done on Mad Men, the entertaining and mostly underrated Political Animals and The Crazy Ones – he and Hamish Linklater are the best parts of that show.

I get roped into a lot of television shows – not just because television is improving and offers a depth and breadth that seemed unimaginable a decade ago. I live in the middle of the Swedish woods and am a workaholic multitasker. I need some noise going on in the background all the time, and when it’s not music, it’s television shows. Mostly I carefully select the shows to which I become devoted – but in the interim, I watch a lot of stuff halfheartedly (like the aforementioned The Crazy Ones, which is not very good and only offers a funny line now and then or –puke, puke – guest appearances from – PUKE – Josh Groban. I watch, I judge, I keep watching sometimes even when a show sucks or even after it loses the plot (example, Revenge) or becomes passé (case in point – Grey’s Anatomy). Some stuff is middling all the time – entertaining but nothing extraordinary (Elementary, Grimm, Revolution – stuff that does not require careful attention, enabling my half-watching notice, mostly things I will refer to as “network stuff”. As much as the major networks are trying to be edgy, they are still just middle-ground followers. Half-baked ideas relying on shock value, soapy dramatics, riding the coattails of the deserved success of edgier, deeper, different storytelling from free and premium cable channels. (Not that all non-network tries are successful. The US version of The Killing started off with promise, dragged its feet with sloppy storytelling and carried its first-season mystery into season two without resolution – never a good idea, right David Lynch/Twin Peaks/Who killed Laura Palmer? People extended the show goodwill enough to give it a third season, which was arguably much better than the second season, but it was really too late.)

Speaking of killing, I also caught a brief article on TV characters who should be killed off. I found that I agreed with the majority. The article also brought up some other random thoughts – because that is what a multitasker does – lots of different things at once, with disconnected thoughts shooting through the brain at lightning speed. Sometimes I capture them – sometimes not (but they were not likely worth capturing).

I only recently started watching Scandal – rapidly caught up on the previous seasons over holiday break. I dislike Quinn – never had a liking for her, but it has gotten worse. I agree that she can go anytime. I have trouble with Tony Goldwyn in general – he is a good actor but for me, he is Carl the bad guy from Ghost (a film I hated). I cannot do anything except make fun of Ghost. Everything about it was so cheesy, and the villains (Willie Lopez!? Carl!). I also remember ghosts of TV’s past when Tony Goldwyn was a guest star on Designing Women, asking the women to design his funeral. He played a gay man who was going to die from AIDS, and the episode ended with his funeral. Designing Women was a preachy show and brought up a lot of issues of the day (mid/late 80s issues). Not that AIDS is not an issue today – but the issue and the illness – or approach to the illness – have changed, maybe in part because of mainstream treatment of the disease?

Which then led me to think about the show Life Goes On (not least because one of its principal actors, Patti LuPone, is now in the ensemble cast of American Horror Story: Coven. Not a favorite in the US although it went on for seasons and seasons. It was probably the first show that put a family front and center that included a member with Down Syndrome and prominently featured that character in the storylines. While that was probably groundbreaking at the time, the show also gave one of its main characters an HIV-positive teenage boyfriend (played by Chad Lowe – probably one of the only things I remember him doing since his career has been overshadowed by his brother Rob and his ex-wife, Hilary Swank – who would have imagined that when she was in one of the many Karate Kid sequels?). I thought about how this character introduction was also its own kind of groundbreaking. While Life Goes On was never actually what I could call “entertaining”, it somehow tackled big issues without being over the top or preachy. It’s no wonder it was not popular (I am told that it was popular in Iceland for some reason – so everyone remembers “Corky” – I suspect if I were to ask a representative sample of Americans if they remember Corky or Becca Thatcher, they would not).

Where is this line in television between entertainment and education? At times Designing Women just felt like a mouthpiece for the creator’s political views and feminist diatribes. Life Goes On, without being too heavy handed or dramatic, still felt a bit too real, making it too depressing to be a gripping drama. Meanwhile, something like The Wire can do both – “edutainment”. But, it is also true that The Wire was not exactly popular during its first run. It has more of the slow-burn quality that comes from being able to buy whole seasons of tv on DVD or online for streaming/download. Some things just don’t catch on until well after the fact. Some fall into obscurity (Homefront, anyone?) while others live on and gather a loyal, vocal following (Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights – note that I cite TWO Kyle Chandler classics!). Thanks to the push for original programming from unorthodox sources (Netflix), we got another season of Arrested Development after years of waiting. Was it worth it? Hard to say – need to watch it more than once to assess. That was the beauty of Arrested Development all along – you almost had to watch it more than once to catch everything. The show was laced with multilayered jokes and references, and without a pretty well-stocked brain bar, getting the perfectly hilarious mixed cocktail it intended could be challenging. It was funny on its surface in many cases but even funnier if you could unpack all the layers. (The Simpsons is a lot like that, too – albeit more so in its earlier years.)

But then so much of pop culture – any culture or discipline – relies on shared references.

For example, everyone needs to see the 1980s classic film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High – I do not know how many times I have referenced it lately and heard it referenced. There was a con mentioned in the show White Collar called “The Phoebe Cates” (referring to the most memorable scene in the film). There was a reference in The Crazy Ones to the scene-stealing Jeff Spicoli (played by then-unknown Sean Penn). Most good pop culture – even the not so good – plays on these references and adds a richness

For the sake of posterity and trying to remember how, when, where and on what I flushed so much time down the toilet, I’m listing as much as I can remember of television I recently ingested and random thoughts on some of them. There are way too many other shows I have not listed (like Mad Men, actually – because they are not on now or soon).

Nashville – Not great, not terrible. I like Connie Britton (thanks to her work in Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story and early Spin City) – not sure I buy this show but I actually like a lot of the music in the show.

The Crazy Ones – This show is all right but I don’t go out of my way to see it. James Wolk and Hamish Linklater make the show for me (really enjoyed both of their work in other things as well). Robin Williams is too over the top as usual and Sarah Michelle Gellar, whom I keep trying to like, is just not for me. I do love Brad Garrett in his role, though. The episodes seemed to get better when he arrived.

The Good Wife – New life breathed into this (not that it needed it) when main character goes off to form her own law firm.

Justified – can’t wait for the new season, coming up soon. I love everything about this show and all its characters. Agree with the writer of article cited above – do not want ANY of these characters to die.

Once Upon a Time – I admit that I have skipped the whole current season of this show. I gave up.

Californication – Thank god we are heading into the final season of this show that should have died ages ago. Sick of this story being rehashed of some loser middle-aged dude who manages to pull his head out of his ass long enough to do something artistically rewarding only to fuck up his personal life and screw over all the people in his fucked life again and again. It’s only funny or forgivable for so long…

House of Lies – Pretty entertaining because it plays on all the stereotypical business clichés and management consultant language. Don Cheadle plays a great asshole.

House of Cards – Entertaining remake of the UK version, proof that creativity can be launched from all kinds of wombs (Netflix original programming)

Episodes – Looking forward to new season. Have been surprised by how crass but simultaneously funny this show is.

Lilyhammer – Funny but also like being hit over the head with stereotypes. But then no one outside of Norway knows anything about Norway – but this might be the sort of thing they imagine. UDI (immigration directorate) might take offense to its treatment, but I’ve never heard a happy story coming out of there.

Shameless – Looking forward to the new season

Grey’s Anatomy – End already. It’s getting petty (or pettier) and duller by the minute

Revenge – It was always soapy but now it’s just ridiculous and has lost any edge it had. Best part is the ease with which character Nolan Ross switches between male and female love interests and it’s just no big deal to anyone. Perfect.

Parks and Recreation – Losing its comedic edge unfortunately.

Community – interested in seeing how this is rebooted now that its controversial creator is back at the helm. Fingers crossed after dismal previous season.

Scandal – Outlandish but a guilty pleasure.

Hawaii Five-0 – another guilty pleasure. I like the chemistry among the cast. Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan together are pretty funny. I like some of the cheeky jokes, for example about Magnum PI – long ago and faraway Hawaii-based TV

Elementary – Big Jonny Lee Miller fan, like how Aidan Quinn is pretty much always a New York police captain in every show now, and Lucy Liu has grown on me in almost all the roles she has done since annoying Ally McBeal BS.

Downton Abbey – I could fully see where the popularity came from in the beginning but it is grating my nerves now

How I Met Your Mother – So glad this is coming to an end. It used to be quite funny at times but this last season feels like a stretch.

White Collar – Time filler. Sometimes quite entertaining. I like the characters but it’s a fairly straightforward show.

Veep – Caught up on this a few months ago and loved it. Laughed a lot at the awkwardness.

The Walking Dead – When it comes back, I wonder where the gang will go. I have always been happy that the show was not afraid to kill people off as they went – that’s realistic.

American Horror Story – Enjoying. I love the big ensemble cast and like that each season brings back the same people in different roles. I never used to like Jessica Lange but this has put a few points in her column. Angela Bassett is, for lack of a better word, amazing. She always is.

Treme – An abbreviated final season. Interested in seeing how it all turns out, even though things never quite “turn out” – I don’t expect finality.

Girls – Clever at first. Eventually just annoying as all fuck. The article above wants Marnie to die. I would not mind if they all did.

Top of the LakeJane Campion is a complicated filmmaker, and she is no different when introducing her storytelling to the small screen. Visually arresting backdrop to a complicated and ugly story, Elisabeth Moss takes center stage as a New Zealander/detective who goes home for the first time in years, dredging up some of the horrors of her own past. Excellent viewing.

Luther – The story is often really outlandish and unbelievable but we can’t help loving Idris Elba, can we? Or the troubled John Luther that he portrays.

Game of Thrones – I resisted. I tried to watch once but did not get far. I tried again and got sucked in this time. Much better. I am a Peter Dinklage fan anyway but came to appreciate the whole thing (even if I still acknowledge that he’s the best thing about the show)

Bron – Swedish/Danish original of the police show – great characters.

The Bridge – US version of Swedish/Danish police show. It took a while to accept Diane Kruger and her character, but I loved Demian Bichir’s character immediately. Also appreciated Ted Levine as the lieutenant – as I loved him in Monk – and Thomas M. Wright as Steven Linder – he also figured prominently into Top of the Lake.

Orange is the New Black – Binge watched. Mostly really enjoyed this – of course it’s not perfect but it was different from most of what else is out there. More accolades for Netflix taking a chance on its own programming.

Longmire – Just renewed for a third season. Can you argue with a show that has Lou Diamond Phillips in it? No.

Ray Donovan – Not sure about this show still. I like most of the characters, but all I can think of when I watch this is that the whole plot development is advanced almost entirely by people making phone calls on their mobiles – way too much time on the phone for everyone involved. Character development suffers a bit…

Homeland – Ok, this show went off the rails many times. I still enjoy it, largely because I have enjoyed the performances of Mandy Patinkin and F Murray Abraham (he will always be Salieri to me). But let’s hope that the next season takes a new direction in light of some of what transpired in the end of the latest season.

Masters of Sex – One of the best things to come along in the last round of shows. Excellent and likeable cast, a sensitive subject handled with sensitivity and a deft hand. Beautifully done. A lot of accolades have gone to star Lizzy Caplan (well-deserved), but other cast members, including virtually unrecognizable Julianne Nicholson and, as the repressed housewife discovering sexual secrets about her husband, the always great Allison Janney.

The Newsroom – My opinion is tipping toward dislike. The background music playing in many scenes tells too much of the story – soaring music that somehow betrays that Jeff Daniels’s character is going to do something liberal and benevolent that no one expects. Too much of the annoying Maggie (played by Alison Pill) and a whole stupid storyline there. I know this is Aaron Sorkin and his famous fast-talking, wordy spiels for all the characters, but I don’t buy the characters here. Mac (Emily Mortimer) is especially out there – someone is unlikely to ascend to her position if this insecure and flighty. Best characters – Sam Waterston, Jane Fonda, Hamish Linklater (a few episodes in the most recent season). They kept the thing grounded.

True Blood – End already? The recent season was a bit more entertaining than the previous two but I could do without this one.

Boardwalk Empire – One of my all-time favorites. I don’t actually know many people who like it, but I love it. I think it becomes more engrossing each season and love the actors they bring in. Somehow the vast ensemble does not get muddled – each character is distinct, even if it does mean that one needs to pay close attention to every moment of the show. Definitely a show not afraid to kill off important characters and fan favorites, which is sad but perhaps necessary to keep it going at the same level. (Actresses I have never liked, such as Patricia Arquette and Julianne Nicholson, turn in fabulous performances here.)

Sons of Anarchy – Also look forward to this ending. It has just become ridiculous. More ridiculous than it already was.

Revolution – Time filler-killer

Grimm – Time filler – like that it is set in Portland, though, so we get references to Portland’s weirdness and Voodoo Doughnut.

Hell on Wheels – I watch this almost entirely to see the performance of Christopher Heyerdahl as “The Swede”. That alone is worth the time.

Soundtrack: Good goo of random Valentine gum 2012

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the sounds of summer

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The Good Goo of Random Gum
Wooded Summer 2011 (playlist on Spotify, where the songs actually exist on Spotify)

01. “Time Never Dies” – Anastasia (Before the Rain soundtrack)
When I think of the film Before the Rain, I will always think of how my friend Mike and I always used to spend our 1990s Friday nights together watching films. This one was told in a roundabout way that still does not totally make sense. The film starred the late Katrin Cartlidge and one of Hollywood’s favorite “eastern European villains”, Rade Serbedzija.

02. “Sometimes” – Beach Fossils …We get lost sometimes/But the reality will keep us sane…
Lost but not lost, a lot of goodbyes, bad byes, telling people off but also enjoying good, new beginnings.

03. “Sun Demon” – Stereolab Actually I like the title “Sun Demon” more than I like the song.

04. “Sorrow” – The National …I don’t wanna get over you… 🙁

05. “The Oh So Protective One” – Girls …And if by now he doesn’t see/Maybe it wasn’t meant to be…
An irresistible, early-Elvis Costello-ballad feel to it. Here’s to unexpressed feelings and how they can tear one up inside.

06. “Ring Ring” – Sleigh Bells …click click saddle up see you on the moon then…
“You’re all alone friend…” Yes, you are all alone, and you might as well be on the moon.

07. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” – Arcade Fire …Living in the sprawl/Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains/And there’s no end in sight/I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights…
“These days my life, I feel it has no purpose/But late at night the feelings swim to the surface”. Continued thanks to Gabriel for the intro. Addictive song, addictive album.

08. “Home” – Glasser …The clouds were dust, raining on us/There was a phantom me in a bed of love…
Reference to a ‘bed of love’ brings to mind an Ingeborg Bachmann poem I have long loved that states, “fearless in religion, for our bed was the church”. For A-x, who gave me hope, titles, dreams, support and then sort of took it all away.

09. “Photojournalist” – Small Black …rise up again/like a ghost…
Like a sexual apparition always haunting for years after the fact, I apparently rise again and again like a ghost.

10. “Swim” – Surfer Blood …swim to reach the end…
SWIM (someone who isn’t me) recommends this song. Thoughts of Jennifer and Esteban!

11. “Ed-Ucation” – Dr Dre …what happened to just fallin in love with a niggah with a bus pass?…
Thank you, Annette, for quoting this for me while waving a bus pass around on a cold Oslo morning.

12. “Core of Nature” – Midlake …I’ll remain no more than is required of me/Until the spirit is gone/I will long to see all that waits to be known/And all that will never be known…
Midlake makes me think of Aurélien and also DB, former colleague and Annette’s “adopted son” in Stockholm.

13. “Wind Me Up” – Eux Autres …Needles and pins/Wait to wind me up again/Summer’s making me late…
Love for my mom and for Annette: Getting late? Needles and pins-uh. 🙂 “Winter’s making me wait/and then”

14. “We Can Get Together” – The Hold Steady …Heaven is whenever we can get together/Lock your bedroom door, and listen to your records…
Remembering the close intensity of youthful friendships and how they all fell apart. The intimacy of pure and simple things being like heaven back in those days (love to GL, LH and TP).

15. “Golden Haze” – Wild Nothing …wild heart surrender to me/what does it take to be like you? …

16. “Up and Down” – Chad Valley
New Year’s Day 2011 and simply struck me for its sound and idea – things really are up and down.

17. “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By” – Love & Rockets …In a city without a soul/Newspaper boys selling you the hard truth…
L&R is like being transported back to junior high school but sounds very different to me now than it did then. For some totally unknown reason, this makes me think of my friend Jill. May you finally escape Ithaca!

18. “Azt Mondta Az Anyukam” – Tamas Somlo & Omega
Strange Hungarian music that just had a cool sound in the resurgence of my love for Hungarian stuff.

19. “All Alone in an Empty House” – Lost in the Trees
What could be more apt? I am all alone in an empty house, lost in the trees, surrounded by deer licking my car.

20. “Love or Loneliness” – Math and Physics Club
“You say there’s only me/then you say it’s sweet/I still believe in monogamy/what am I supposed to think?”

21. “Everything You Wanted” – Kele …I see the pain written over your face/And I know I pushed you too far…

22. “Lille” – Lisa Hannigan
“I went to war every morning/I lost my way, but now I’m following/What you said in my arms/What I read in the charms/that I loved durably/now it’s dead and gone, and I am free…”

23. “Take ‘Em Up” – Shit Robot …Maybe it’s just a little too late/And when you’re close you’re just a little too close/But it’s just as far as you’ll go…

24. “Triumph!!!” – Shit Robot

25. “Own Stunts” – Breathe Owl Breathe …I’m walking down the path/Look down there’s a welcome mat/Over a trap door…
“Cross my heart and hope to live/My blood is boilin’”. This song, for some unknown reason, affects me deeply.

26. “Without a Doubt” – Isbells
With love to Arjen for another stellar recommendation. Belgium has more than just beer and chocolate!:)

27. “In Many Ways I Am Losing” – Joe Wilkes …you shoulda locked me out/when I came in drunk that time…

28. “Miner at the Dial-a-View” – Grandaddy …I’m going home someday…
Longtime friend David gave me this album an eternity ago. I fell in love with it again lately. Tack så mycket, David.

29. “Acid Reign” – Violens …I know I can be so critical at times/When you’re delusional/leaving your loved ones behind…
I somehow associate this band with A-x since his presence swirls around these songs.

30. “My Love” – The Asteroid No. 4 …South of London where the roses seem to grow through the cobblestones/I met my lover at the end of a winding country road…
Middle of the night drives, no other cars, feeling buoyed by this sound.

31. “My Oh My!” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis …fight until the day that God decides to wave us in…
RIP Dave Niehaus and… take me out to the ballgame… and to all my baseball-loving friends.

32. “You Can Count on Me” – Panda Bear
You can never actually count on anyone.

33. “Hey” – The Pixies
For Mathieu – very appropriate.

34. “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais” – Serge Gainsbourg …oui je t’aimais, oui, mais- je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais…
The driving song … my American days. Des adieux à jamais/Farewell forever.

35. “Marathon” – Tennis …we didn’t realize that we had arrived at high tide, high tide/barely made it out alive…
My immortal love for marathons. For JKL, the only capable marathoner I know.

36. “Cold Blooded Old Times” – Smog …the type of memories/that turn your bones to glass…
“How can I stand/And laugh with the man/Who redefined your body?”

37. “The Dawn of Your Happiness is Rising” – Violens …the dawn of your happiness still rising/Still rising, banishing the dark thoughts you have been hiding inside of you…
For A-x. “You lay awake/beside me troubled and afraid/Be calm, you’re safe/the light of day just hours away…”

38. “Pineapple Girl” – Mister Heavenly …I’ve heard you’re evil and I’ve heard you’re wicked/that you do bad things that would frighten children…
Is there anything the pineapple girl cannot do? No! “So be my little pineapple girl”.

39. “A Postcard to Nina” – Jens Lekman …don’t let anyone stand in your way…
I miss Nina! (Great lyrics with a great story. I always love the Swedes!)

40. “What’s In It For?” – Avi Buffalo …you are tiny and your lips are just like little pieces of bacon…
“I walked in on a plan to dissolve all of your wishes…”

41. “Boyfriend” – Best Coast …I’d love him to the very end/But instead he is just a friend…
I used to just think this sounded sort of cool, like something from the 60s. Now it just makes me sad.

42. “Fucking Boyfriend (Peaches Remix)” – The Bird and the Bee …Would you ever be my, would you be my fucking boyfriend?…
Thanks to Esteban in response to “Boyfriend”… should be more in keeping with my angrier, more demanding nature.

43. “It’s Alright” – Junip

44. “Gravity Feels” – Millionyoung
I love to play this LOUD in the car in the middle of the night. I love the shift from instrumental to vocal.

45. “Need You Now” – Cut Copy …hush darling, don’t you cry…
You were there at least once when I really needed you.

46. “Corporeal” – Broadcast …do that to my anatomy…
RIP Trish Keenan of Broadcast. “A thorny red heart/Around a thin arm/Inside a white bone/The love is inborn”

47. “More” – The Sisters of Mercy (Marilyn)
Nightmare experiences that diminish in horror over time: they are as bad as you remember. Never be fooled by the fallacy of a time-softened memory.

48. “Bone China” – 50 Foot Wave …last gasp nymphomania/somehow desexualized/gonna wash that man right out of my hair/soap him into my eyes… (For JKL)

49. “Motorbike to Heaven” – Salad …I don’t know why/but I got a good idea that we’ll meet again someday/it makes me cry/there’s a memory of you standing in the woods…
Thoughts of past (Kathryn, Beth, Olivier) and present (KKK) and memories of not getting what I want in the woods.

50. “Pneuma” – 50 Foot Wave …you know what? you know what? you know what?/SHUT THE FUCK UP!…

51. “Harold and Joe” – The Cure
Failing drafting class and listening to this while daily crossing the field from Japanese class. Thanks to Gary, 1990

52. “Big Wave” – Jenny and Johnny (Thanks to Aurélien)
“And my love’s a lie/’cause the snake, he visits me/When you are away/And your dreams don’t lie/I have been corrupted/’Cause all the lovers I take”

53. “The Chinatown Bus” – Bishop Allen
“And his gloves are pristine white just like the girls I used to know would wear to dance their first cotillion/Every single one of them named Jennifer”

54. “We Were Gonna” – Dengue Fever
I love the sound of this music – Cambodian lyrics remind me of Vietnamese karaoke circa 1996, lost time.

55. “Get Innocuous!” – LCD Soundsystem …to string you along with the pretense/and pave the way for the coming release…

56. “The Youth” – MGMT …This is a call to arms to live and love and sleep together…

57. “Povo Que Lavas No Rio” – Amália Rodrigues
“Pode haver quem te defenda/Quem compre o teu chão sagrado/Mas a tua vida não”

58. “The Dustbowl” – Everything but the Girl …am I flattering myself/or was I the one who made you cynical?…
Love to William who put this on a tape for me years and years ago!

59. “Going Blind” – The Go-Betweens …sometimes change is a dirty word/yeah, that’s what I heard…
I miss the Go-Betweens. Here’s to more change, which is never a dirty word in my vocabulary.

60. “Beginning to See the Light” – The Velvet Underground …some people work very hard/but still they never get it right…
Timeless, with passion. “There are problems in these times/but woooooo, none of them are mine!”

61. “Running from the Cops” – Phantogram …my dreams they never come true/and if they ever, ever do it’s never you…
For KKK, who has assumed an inexplicable amount of importance in my life

62. “Winter’s Ruin” – Ghosts I’ve Met …I never really knew you at all… (For A-x.)

63. “Dead Man Walking” – Sara Petite
Something peculiar for me. Ms Petite was one of my high school classmates (slightly reminiscent of Victoria Williams).

64. “Under Their Thumb… is under my thumb” – The Boomtown Rats …revenge is sweet/but it’s sugar free…
Love to Angelika, to Annette, and to long lost friends…

65. “The High Road” – Broken Bells …it’s too late to change your mind…

66. “Nobody’s Diary” – Yazoo …For the happy, the sad – I don’t want to be just another page in your history…

67. “Water Ran” – Lilly Wood & the Prick …it’s too early to say I would have liked to love you, I know…
For A-x. “It’s too far to say I would have liked to hold you…”

68. “Hourglass” – Squeeze

69. “It’s Working” – MGMT …no, it’s working…
“It’s working in your blood/which you know is not the same as love/love is only in your mind and not your heart”

70. “Senses Working Overtime” – XTC …and all the world is biscuit shaped/it’s just for me to feed my face…

71. “Pendulum” – Broadcast …Caught between the day and night/And a knot that pulls too tight…
“Logic offers no defense/Underneath this influence/While this puzzle of intent/Holds emotion in suspense”

72. “Little Marriage” – Lia Ices …I started minding not having it all/one little marriage or big love…
Here’s to all the things I just cannot bear to do anymore.

73. “I’ll Try Anything Once” – The Strokes (With love for Tara)

74. “No Surprises” – Radiohead …no alarms and no surprises…
Always the way things end. No alarms and no surprises…

75. “Sacrifice” – Sinéad O’Connor …Cold, cold heart/hardened by you/some things look better, baby/just passing through…
Driving I-5 away from Seattle in summer, 1996, aimless, restless, being torn apart. The sound of a busy signal.

76. “Flower” – Liz Phair (For JKL) …every time you pass me by, I heave a sigh of pain…
Lyrics are self-explanatorily graphic, “impure” and “unchaste”…

77. “Bad Luck Heels” – DeVotchKa

78. “The Night” – Morphine …You’re the night, Lilah/A little girl lost in the woods/You’re a folk tale/The unexplainable…

79. “Heroes” – TV on the Radio (RIP Gerard Smith of TVotR – one of David Bowie’s best is a fitting tribute…)

80. “At the Start” – Shelby Earl …I’m tired of letting go with a smile/when you kissed my hand and said, you’re all right…
“I am right where I’ve always been/at the start, I could see the end/I am right where I always am/at the start, I’m at the end”

81. “Don’t Shake It” – Cornershop

82. “Fly Me Away” – Goldfrapp …And I wanna be the/One that you call/When you get down/No matter where you/Are in the world I’ll be around…
This had a faintly Saint Etienne quality, made me think very much of beloved, illustrious Ben and of A-x. “Don’t wanna live a life/In a world that’s all the same/The crazy little things/That you do are magical”

83. “Flower” – The Charlatans …it’s time to say goodbye,/bye to the bad, bad girl…

84. “Make a Plan to Love Me” – Bright Eyes …some things you lose/you don’t get back/So just know what you have…
“When you are young the world is a ferris wheel/I know we will grow old it is lovely, still/Make a plan to love me…”

85. “Pretend I Don’t Exist” – Melody Gardot (For A-x)
“I waited for love to call/But got none at all/So I should stay/While you wander away/From the warmth of my lips/Just try to forget my kiss/Pretend I don’t exist”

86. “New Myth” – Lia Ices …say my name like it’s never been before…
Beauty, raw emotion. For A-x, for Jane. “New myth just been born has never felt so old.”

Spring Fling 2011

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