An audacious plan to save the world
I have consumed X,000 mg of caffeine since 5:30 a.m. while listening to The Blend on SiriusXM, although I had to change the channel when Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” came on. Blech. For the record, these are songs I will change the channel on:
Candle in the Wind
Sympathy for the Devil
It’s a Wonderful World
anything by that flute band
+ Important news: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! starts streaming on Tuesday!
I set some low bars for myself this week.
The song I listened to the most
No comment on all the trash floating through the universe, but this song is the best.
Some things I read
In my experience, trying to convince anyone to love anything you love is a useless effort. I have succeeded exactly one time, when I talked my friend SarahB into watching 20 hours of Battlestar Galactica over a single weekend, but that was just me being a good friend. The best kind of friend.
Anyway, a woman in this sitcom writing class I took back in ’08 tried convincing me that The Big Bang Theory was actually a funny, smart sitcom with well-developed characters, and I said “hogwash” with confidence, because based on what I knew about this sitcom at the time (which was nothing), how could this possibly be true? But it is true. It’s been on for a billion years now and is a prime example of a series that has used those years to expand and deepen its own universe in incremental yet profound ways. Individual episodes can be dumb and lazy, based on who’s doing the writing that week, but name one television show where that is not the case. Everything has clunkers.
Over the past five years it has become my blue mood show, the one I seek out when nothing else works, even though I can’t say exactly why, As favored NPR critic/Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes writes, “How do you explain what makes you laugh? How do I explain that Jim Parsons is just funny to me? And that some of the darling comedies of modern criticism, highly valued for their incisive, dark, weird insights, are not funny to me? How do I explain that sometimes I am, comedically speaking, a cheap date? The cheapest date?”
Sheldon has always reminded me of a cross between Jiminy Cricket, Barney Fife, and Mr. Rogers. My #1 episode is the one where he gets all the cats because he’s sad about Amy (“The Zazzy Substitution”). I will watch it repeatedly until the end of time:
A grasp of narrative is the one compliment you can give the country genre even when you can’t give it anything else. Its roots are in folk music, and its towering figures are oral historians like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Not cool enough to be relevant to any streaming age existential crises, the winning country formula has not seen a major change in my lifetime. Two beers deep on Tuesday night, I thought about all the barns and hardware stores I’d heard Womack’s “Mendocino County Line” or “Little Past Little Rock” drifting out of as a kid, and tinkered with the idea that country songs are functionally like podcasts—linear entertainment you’re entitled to enjoy during the workday. A story is more vital than a hook or beat, in that context. A story built from tropes is even better, like falling asleep streaming a romantic comedy you’ve seen before. Country music is maligned—and rightly so—for corniness, misogyny, and flat, unexamined whiteness, but it is unendingly winning at the short story.
🔗 Warren Ellis on withdrawing from social media: “I still get broadcast waves. I’m still engaged with the world and learning every day. But I’ve chosen a quiet life in the fog. I leave you to that other world. I like it better where I am.”
SOMETHING ABOUT SOAP OPERAS
From Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap Opera:
Finally, the genre’s structure encourages viewers to develop certain ways of watching, and the daytime audience’s unique viewing practices help to explain the special power of issue-oriented story lines. Regular viewers have a rich, complex relationship to their favorite programs and possess a dense historical knowledge of the relationships among the characters. Whether they watch in real time or on videotape (ed. !), the daily broadcast of soaps permits viewers to make the shows part of their regular domestic routine, and that repetition works to build an intimate connection with the individual characters.
A clip from General Hospital
It’s all true. I watched the relationship between these two characters develop over decades. Knowing everything about their history is everything that makes this storyline and these scenes deeply resonant and precious to me: the care that they take with each other, the trust between them, even just the way they sit and talk to each other. The way that they grew and changed together. This is what soap operas do. Again I repeat: for all their faults and insanity, there is no other format that enables this in the same way, that allows and demands it, that embeds and rewards this patience and this loyalty in the bargain it makes with its viewers.
One thing I did
I took a cooking class at Sur la Table on Wednesday; it was me and two dudes learning how to make pizza at home. And lo, it was good! Good for the heart and the soul and the belly. My goal for the rest of 2018 is to not be afraid of flour. Cross your fingers!
Your weekly Bruce
Bruce performing an earnest sermon for an audience of thousands beneath a setting sun is one of my favorite Bruces: “A dream of life comes to me / Like a catfish dancin' on the end of my line.” BRUUUUUUUUUUCE. He always makes me happy.
In other news, I like to reward people for reaching the bottom, and your reward is knowing that what I keep thinking are bald spots in my eyebrows are actually, upon closer inspection, only patches of gray. So life goes on. Congratulations!