Watching TV Chronologically (Cont.)

It’s spring in 1995 in TV Land now. We’ve seen the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation (best series final lines ever), all of Jeeves and Wooster (as good as I remember) and the first season of Batman the Animated Series (which is harder to watch as an adult).

More importantly, Mad About You has started and it’s still as much fun to watch as ever. I really like Reiser and Hunt and I’m sort of struck by the decision to tell so much of the story in a non-linear format. You learn about the characters over time, but don’t actually follow the story from beginning to end in a straight line. It’s smart for a sitcom.

And Animaniacs is going full swing as well. If there are two TV shows that have formed my sense of humor, it’s Animaniacs and Mad About You. And unlike most children’s television, The Warner Siblings are even better as an adult. The shit they got past the network censors is amazing. I must say, however, that what really shines is the music. The brains behind the songs of the Animaniacs (Tom Ruegger and the late Richard Stone) were fantastic. The music is still imminently listenable catchy and clever. And they were smart enough to hire Bernadette Peters as Rita; that speaks volumes.

Spotting voice actors is a good pivot to say a few words about Gargoyles. Gargoyles was one of those shows that really proved the idea that kids shows can be literate, serious and involve expansive storylines. But I will admit that it’s principal appeal to me now is to play find the voice. The main cast boasts Keith David, Jonathan Frakes, Salli Richardson, Marina Sirtis, Ed Asner. When they introduce guest stars I’ve already heard Clancy Brown, Jim Cummings (of course), Tim Curry, Michael Dorn (all the TNG principals except Wheaton and Stewart show up at some point), John Rhys-Davies, Tony Jay, Nichelle Nichols, and David Warner. Those are just off the top of my head (OK, with a touch of wiki) and I’ve got a couple of seasons left to watch. The story is still fun and engaging, but damn if I don’t love trying to recognize people.

Technically Babylon 5 is running as well, but I just finished watching that series again for the first time since I was a kid and I just couldn’t stomach it again so soon. Finally, Reboot has only just started, but the first 2 Seasons of that show don’t really count so I’ll talk about them later.

Oh, and The Critic is just finishing up it’s short lived run. I love that show but I really really can’t recommend it. It is little more than an attempt to cram as many pop culture references into a 22 minute show as possible and it ages terribly.

I’m looking forward to the September start of Freakizoid! Although I suspect that it doesn’t hold as well as Animaniacs does, do to its lack of music.

Watching TV Chronologically

So I discovered in that in Plex there’s a way to list every episode of TV shows I’ve got in order of airdate. From that moment began to feel a strange drive to watch my whole collection chronologically. It’s foolish, I know, but I’m doing it anyway.

The collection starts in Nov of 1972 with Alistair Cooke’s America, which I hadn’t seen in a while but is a bit dull to run through all at once. Next up was Connections with James Burke and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, both of which I granted myself the luxury of skipping. I love those series, but I’ve watched them just before bed so many times that the moment either is turned on, I immediately get drowsy.

Then in 1983 Blackadder starts. I must say, the first season of Blackadder is really pretty bad. There are a couple of fun moments but the series really doesn’t come into its own until we get the deadpan snarker Blackadder in the second season.

In September of 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation and for the first time I’m watching two shows concurrently (until Blackadder goes off season four episodes in). I must say, I actually like this format of cycling shows quite a bit, as you keep getting a break.

Star Trek then proceeds on its own for a bit and if I was looking for a way to get hammered, making a drinking game out of spotting whenever Wesley Crusher shows up in a new horrible sweater would do it.

And then in the spring of 1988, when I had just turned 4, Jim Henson’s Storyteller airs. I am still amazed that I didn’t see this series until the 21st century. But even though I’d never seen the show itself, I was familiar with it as it kept showing up on Movie Magic and the other special effects shows that captivated my attention as a youth. It’s a delightful series, and really needs to be seen more often.

And then, oh my, it’s Quantum Leap. I really love this show, possibly more than TNG, but I will be the first to grant that the rules behind Leaping sound like a drunk person came up with them. It’s not just Sam Beckett’s mind jumping back in time, it’s actually him, but everybody still sees and hears the person they expect to be there, and Sam does as well if he looks in the mirror, but I guess the audience is immune to that. And whatever gave Sam ‘swiss cheese memory’ must also have done something else because this dude falls in love with female guest starts at the drop of a hat. And did we really waste a whole episode in rural Texas just to help Buddy Holly write “Peggy Sue”? Yeesh.

I rag on it, but I still love it.

In the fall of 1989, Michael Palin stars his 7 episode special “Around the World in 80 Days” which is the sort of travel log that makes me annoyed I spent so much time at home. The final episode is the best, of course, because it’s brilliant to see 1989 America from the viewpoint of a foreigner. Is it just me, or has the American accent actually shifted in the past 20 years? No wait, the actors on Star Trek and Quantum leap sound fine. It must be that everyone Palin interviews is the kind of person who rides Amtrak.

That brings you up to date on where/when I am. I’m sad that Blackadder is done now (until the movie later on), but I’m just a year from “Jeeves and Wooster” which I remember being impeccable.

The Name of the Wind

Originally this report was supposed to be something like four thousand words long; which was a ridiculous idea from the start. Disregarding the fact that at the time of that goal making, I had less than two weeks to finish reading the book and write this up: the idea that I might be able to report to anyone ever at such length about a third of a book is practically non-sensical.

I don’t mean for this to sound like excuses but The Name of the Wind is not really a whole book, at least no more so than Act 1 of Hamlet is a an entire play, despite the great length of both. By the end of the novel the stage has been set and most, if not all, of the important relevant characters have been introduced, but the story hasn’t really moved anywhere. The characters don’t develope so much as settle into the places they’ll need to be in, so they can develop later.

Which means that not really enough happens in this Act 1 for much to have paid off yet. There are some symbols being set up: Denna’s nature and the wind and the parallel between Kvothe and Taborlin the great and Kvothe’s versus his own legend. But since the story hasn’t even really hit it’s rising action yet, none of these are explored, merely set out.

I will also have to admit that what passes for a climax is rather a let down. It sounds great when you summarize it: hero saves a town and slays a dragon, but in the actual text it isn’t tied in well. It’s tangential. Perhaps this will be better connected to the plot later, but as it stands, it feels as though Rothfuss was seeing a two hundred and fifty thousand word count looming and realized that he didn’t have a big thing happening in the novel. So he just shoved in a thing about a dragon. I have trouble caring.

I could go on a bit more about the characters, specifically about how annoying Denna is for the entirety of the book, but that’s more than a little unfair. These characters haven’t done anything yet, not personally. It would be wrong to judge Hamlet for his actions in Act 1 and it isn’t very useful to judge characters now either.

So I’m reading Wise Man’s Fear, though that’s not going to count for February, and hopefully when The Doors of Stone comes out I’ll finally get to read the full book.

Project

I’m really not one for new year resolutions. I don’t think that attempts at self improvement are best tied to calendar dates but instead should be entered to based on your own level of commitment. Else you are only finding ways to disappoint your future, less improved, self.

But if you have something you want to start, and you happen to be starting it in January. Then it’s probably fairly pointless to try to argue that it is not a new year resolution. I won’t even try.

Once a month for the next twelve months, I’m taking myself back to English Lit, but this time hopefully I’ll actually pay attention to the assigned reading, because I’m going to the be the one picking them. (This is also an opportunity to clear my “to read” list of some stuff that’s been there far to long.) On the last day of each month, I’ve got a four thousand word book report due and it has to be on something I’ve never read before.

First one is due in ten days, I better get cracking.

I had a moment the other day:

I’ve been muddling about with the mandolin for many moons now. Not particularly enthusiastically, of course. I grabbed the fingering for some chords and have been playing about with them. I found a site with a ton of songs I kinda knew in mandolin tablature. I’d occasionally grab the thing and try to fumble out a tune by ear. I wasn’t really getting anywhere with it.

And the other day I was transcribing some piano sheet music in to ABC notation for the purpose of transposing it out of its stupid A-flat major key and into something I could actually use. When I was all done, I thought “I think this melody would sound good on the mandolin”.

But as I started to play, the mental math of trying to work out where the notes were fingered was grating on me and I pulled up a fingerboard diagram. So I start again, looking up the occasional note as I play: A is open on this string, C# fingered here, D here, F# there. And then bang the D Major scale snaps into focus on the fret board for me. Suddenly I know where all the notes are without doing the mental math, and all those songs I know but couldn’t play are available.

Sometimes, as you learn a skill, you have a sort of mental road map of your own progression. You can kind of predict what you do and don’t know, and how far you have to go and how you get there. You don’t have the knowledge of the skill yet, but you have sort of an idea of the shape of what lies ahead.

Not I with music.

I’ve only ever played because I enjoyed it, and I’ve never known from one moment to the next where I’m headed with it. I like that. I like a hobby with no expectations or goals. I like not having any idea of what I don’t know. I like those bang moments when it comes together.