Stories

Comedians Have to Apologize For Everything Now

Maria Bamford's new show Lady Dynamite is getting a lot of write-ups on the websites that contain information that I sometimes use while blogging:

Conventional wisdom would have it that crippling mental illness isn't a good subject for a sitcom. But there's nothing conventional about Maria Bamford's brand of comedy. Fans of her stand-up and such through-the-rabbit hole projects like 2012's Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special—  in which the 45-year-old comedian performs a taped set for just her parents in their living room — know that she isn't afraid to tap into very dark, very personal places in her work. So when Bamford announced she was developing a sitcom for Netflix that would touch on her career struggles in Hollywood and stints in psychiatric hospitals to treat a bipolar disorder, you expected something different. And Lady Dynamite, which toggles between our heroine trying to land acting gigs in Hollywood and her time in a mental hospital in her real-life hometown of Duluth, Minnesota (and premieres in full tomorrow night on the streaming service), could not be a better introduction to her ability to slide between sunny absurdity and depressive reality in a blink.

It sounds like a great show in the making, and I'll definitely watch it. But I hate Rolling Stone and I am sorry I linked to them. At the end of the article, poor Maria has to get her apologies in early:

"I had wanted to go very dark for the dark moments. Just, you know, minutes of silence passing. That's how it truly is — these unbearable moments. But who knows if that makes for good television," she says with a laugh. "I mean, people die from illnesses like these. I was a little worried about that, so I hope it turned out to be respectful as well [as funny]. And if it isn't, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize. I apologize right up front for everything I've done and will do."

The truly daunting thing that comedians do nowadays is tell jokes and try to get shows on the air. No one has a sense of humor about anything anymore. The Internet amplifies the voices of people who are outraged. I'm fine with all of that--I run my own website so I can't ban myself and I can't stop showing up for work, so there's that. The real problem is when someone organizes a boycott of everything you say or do--that's not fun. It's almost better to be ignored and have no one read what you're writing, but I have no opinions about that.

The Machine Stops

As a relatively young man in 1909, E. M. Forster imagined pretty much how humans would live in the 21st Century.

The futuristic world portrayed in The Machine Stops is an eerily familiar one - people mostly communicate with each other via screens, the rarity of face-to-face interaction has rendered it awkward, and knowledge and ideas are only shared by a system that links every home.

Yet that world was imagined not by a contemporary writer but by the Edwardian author Edward Morgan Forster.

Best known for his novels about class and hypocrisy - Howards End, A Room With A View and A Passage To India - The Machine Stops was Forster's only foray into science fiction.

Published in 1909, it tells the story of a mother and son - Vashti and Kuno - who live in a post-apocalyptic world where people live individually in underground pods, described as being "like the cell of a bee", and have their needs provided for by the all-encompassing Machine.

It is a world where travel is rare, inhabitants communicate via video screens, and people have become so reliant on the Machine that they have begun to worship it as a living entity.

Now, aside from the fact that we haven't had an apocalypse and that we don't live in underground pods, Forster got a lot of things right. We are replacing our various Gods on a regular basis. We are emerging from centuries of class warfare and strife. And we are talking to one another through screens instead of face to face. Sounds pretty accurate to me.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 11


Don't read this if you haven't seen the 11th Episode of Season Six titled "Knots Untie."

My recap on this is way, way late and I apologize for that. I'm impressed so far with the quality of the show and I am not going to sit and snipe away at the comic or the show--what's the point of all of that? The Walking Dead is a show that is too busy changing to care whether or not people are still mad about Andrea. This was a transitional episode that attempted to introduce a whole new world--a bigger one--while adding in some more characters. The cast of the show is now about as big as the story can handle.

This is the episode where we get to see the Hilltop community. The set they've built is stunning--what other TV show would do something like this?

Michonne appears to be the new "Andrea" and that's the main story so far--the evolution of the characters and the possibility that we will see more insight into their personal lives. Basic human needs are being met, even if there is a food shortage. The existential threat of 10,000 walkers has faded into the past. There's another herd of about 5,000 walkers out there--when will they stumble back towards the survivors? When will they appear? The conflicts that will arise between the good guys and the bad guys will inform the rest of this season and set things up for what I think will be the final season--the seventh season that will begin airing this fall. If they do an eighth season, it will probably cover material that the comic book hasn't--meaning, it will follow the example set by Game of Thrones and give people something they haven't already ingested.

This episode can be measured in melodrama. Abraham is a morose fellow, but he gets laughs with the best product placement in the show's history (do people still use Bisquick?). Glenn and Maggie are hopeful because they've just rescued the best baby doctor still alive. Jesus is going to be trusted, but only barely. Daryl does not have enough to do, as usual. Rick has ended the Ricktatorship and turned things over to Maggie. And opening up the carotid artery of your adversary rates a "what?" when done in public.

We know there's an evil mastermind called Negan out there, and we finally get an idea as to what he's about. He's explained here as an extoritionist. The Hilltop compound is a neighborhood grocery store and Negan is the mobbed up guy who comes in, beats someone to death "right off the bat," and collects his protection money. Rick and the survivors are the vigilantes who are going to take him on and put a stop to the injustice. This is the deal they make, and it's the best one out there. This means that someone in the group of survivors is going to have to be sacrificed for the food they need from the Hilltop group.

Maggie emerges as a the leader that Deanna groomed her to become. Rick knows it, and defers to her because he knows what he's good at. He's the military and Maggie is the civilian, and, in America, it works better if you have the civilians telling the armed forces what to do. She negotiates with the creepy and date-rapey Gregory, who acts like a diffident Humanities professor trying to sleep with a grad student. And Maggie, as the grad student, knows how to flip the tables and get what she wants, which is a significant amount of food and the chance to help Rick sell the plan to get rid of Negan to the survivors.

All of the foreshadowing done on behalf of Abraham--who is torn between leaving Rosita and taking up with Sasha--means that someone's heart is going to be broken. I still maintain, though, that Daryl will meet the end of Negan's bat, not Glenn. It's also possible that Abraham will step in and take Glenn's place so that someone can have some happiness. The speech between the two of them in this episode makes that scenario a little more likely.




The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 10


Don't read this until you've seen episode 10, "The Next World."

Somehow, the gang figured out how to remove several thousand zombie carcasses and find the breathing space necessary to repair the walls and expand the size of the Alexandria Safe Zone. For budgetary purposes, this makes sense. There are bound to be a few more large, expensive sets in the future, but this is now home for Rick and the survivors. A lot has been invested in giving them some measure of stability. They have the basics. Electricity, running water, and relative safety and security are their hard won prizes, even if the supplies are running out.

We have moved ahead several weeks in the time line, and this means that there's a routine now. People have had a chance to calm down, assess their losses, and start living with one another. It's a shame that we didn't see more normalcy among the other characters (you see Tara's arm, briefly, and little else, and that's a shame because the dynamic between her and Dr. Denise looks like fodder for a few more storylines involving gate guard Eugene and whoever else). As soon as a routine sets in on the Walking Dead, critics begin complaining about how the show is boring. I suppose that's the inevitable backlash that's going to build between now and the appearance of Negan in the finale. We're a few weeks away from that, however.

This week's show was an expanded supply run that allowed Daryl and Rick time to bond over music Daryl doesn't want to hear and drive fast on abandoned roads in a nice Cadillac (if I have that wrong, sorry, but it looked like a Caddy to me). Rick talks about "the law of averages" and it looks like they are able to luck out. However, their luck seems to change when they run into the other character everyone's been waiting for, named Jesus by his friends (Daryl is contemptuous of the name, of course). The other storyline centers around Carl and Enid being teenagers in the woods. They won't show a love scene, so they showed us comic books and crabby, moody repartee instead. This all leads to Carl avoiding Michonne and Spencer, who are out looking for one particular walker to put down and bury, properly. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that they carve a D into a tree when their mission ends.

Adding someone as pivotal as Jesus to the knowledge base of the survivors is what is going to drive the majority of the upcoming episodes, I believe. Jesus is given nearly magical powers as far as fighting ability and deception. He's practically a ninja in uncomfortable clothes as depicted here. All of this makes sense because he represents the comic book arc that everyone has been waiting for.

When you combine the Hilltop people with Rick's survivors, you end up with a very large and potent group of characters that are inevitably going to face off against Negan and his followers. I suppose this is a hamfisted way of settling in behind the story arc that carries the comics forward. There should be enough tricks and turns ahead to throw everyone else off. My belief is that we're going to set up Daryl's death in the weeks ahead.

How do I know Daryl is going to die and that everyone is going to riot? I don't, but that's my guess. The show followed through and removed Jessie from the mix; to follow through and get rid of Glenn in the comic book way would be too obvious. That's why I don't think Glenn will die in the end. I think the show will remix Daryl in his place. I also think Maggie will end up being the leader of the Hilltop community and Glenn will play a supporting role once her baby is born.

The show could use Abraham as a stand-in for Glenn, but I think that because Daryl actually killed Negan's men, the writing is on the wall.

And, yes, we get a wide shot of the additional names added to the memorial on the wall. The episode also teases the notion that Jesus is going to "expand" their world. I'm curious as to what that means. How big will the Hilltop community be and how man Saviors are there? Will the Saviors be more skilled and lethal than the Governor's Woodbury group? We know that Deanna told them that Northern Virginia had been depopulated, and then we discovered ten thousand walkers bottled up in a quarry. What else was misunderstood about life in that neck of the woods?

I don't know what to make of the dynamic between Carl and Enid. This is more of that annoying Emo stuff that will inspire countless think pieces on how the show should remove everyone who's a teenager from the cast. There's also some foreshadowing of a long supply run by Tara and Heath--was that a throwaway or will we see a rescue mission that will involve the loss of more characters?

Oh, and, the elephant in the room. People are freaking out because Michonne and Rick had sex. So what? It's a great thing, and normalcy means the characters look for comfort with one another. I would expect that Abraham and Sasha have gotten cozy with one another, and maybe a few other characters have found some comfort with one another. It's perfectly natural and an interesting way of remixing Michonne and Andrea as Rick's post-Jessie love interest.

This was another strong episode, one that followed up last week's episode with what everyone hates about the show--a lack of an immediate human threat and normalcy among survivors. There are some great stories to tell before we get to the end of this season, one which, if they do it right, will break a lot of hearts. It may be obvious to think that Daryl is headed for certain doom, but that's my guess right now.



The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 9


There are spoilers ahead, so don't read this until you have seen the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, did you notice how the release of the first four minutes of this episode made everything seem as if everything was about to turn bad for Sasha and Abraham? And if you weren't expecting the return of the rocket propelled grenade launcher that Abraham found, well, I don't blame you. This is a show you can't go to sleep on.

This was a strong episode--much stronger than expected. And the best thing you can say about this episode is that they got the band back together. The worst thing you can say is that it was a mistake to get rid of Alexandra Breckenridge. Everyone knew that Jessie was doomed and so it was not a surprise when she succumbed to the walker herd along with her sons. It wouldn't have made a difference as to whether or not Jessie allowed Sam to leave with Father Gabriel. Her son Ron had been harboring a blood lust against Rick and Carl for a long time. At some point, he was going to snap and try to kill Carl again. Now you know why Michonne is one of the most indispensable characters.

I thought that they were going to remix Jessie with Andrea and make her the version of Andrea that survived Seasons 3, but oh well. Now I read that they're bringing in Alicia Witt. Well, if you already had Breckenridge, why did you need to bring in Witt? I guess we'll never know.

The use of the flashback to Carol's terrorizing of Sam was done to demonstrate that she is due for something awful. This was her way of trying to toughen up Sam to the realities of the world at a time when she and Rick and Daryl didn't trust the Alexandrians. Carol has always been about tough love with regards to kids. She made an honest effort to bring Sam into the present. Instead, it caused him to freeze as they were trying to move through the herd. This could have been done to show that Carol is culpable for the deaths of Sam and Jessie but not Ron. Ron was on his own separate path and his death had everything to do with his inability to process his father's death. Rick's act of killing his father was legitimate. Now you have to make up your mind as to whether or not Carol should have frightened Sam and whether that was justified. The Anderson family is no more. This is one of two moral quandaries introduced over the last few episodes.

The other quandary centers around Morgan and his inability to kill living people. His choices didn't lead to anyone's death, just the temporary escape of the Wolf. Again, we come back around to Carol. She doesn't hesitate this time--she kills the Wolf without reservation, wisely taking custody of the only gun and separating herself from Morgan so that she can do what needs to be done. Morgan, on the other hand, is not broken by what happened. He joins in the fight and he gets past the moment where he realized that he could have ended up being responsible for the death of Dr. Denise. There were at least four redemption moments in this episode. Enid came out of her shell to help Glenn save Maggie, and there was a moment each for Father Gabriel, for Dr. Denise and for Eugene, so can Morgan be too far behind? The survivors are about to be confronted by the worst villain yet. How does Morgan change his fate? Or is he now too far gone? Your morals aren't going to survive the zombie apocalypse for very long.

.

Let's not minimize Rick's speech to Carl. This is an opposite speech, different from Carl's monologue when Rick collapsed after the fall of the prison. Rick is mirroring what Carl said but there is no recrimination. He goes all the way back to the pilot and talks about waking up in the hospital. He has a whole world to show Carl but we know what has happened to it. Rick is not dwelling on that--he just wants to keep trying to show Carl what the world could be like. He has hope now that they came together and defeated the walker herd. I think this is where the show really shifts from being about surviving to thriving and to confronting the human threat. This season will be the start of a story arc that does exactly that.

The act of getting the band back together gives us something rare for the Walking Dead. We get to see something incredible and rare. We get to see a moment of triumph for the group of survivors. Everyone pulls together and goes on a walker-killing rampage. It's a methodical elimination of the threat, one that starts small and builds momentum through example. Rick unleashes his rage, and everyone sees it, just like other soldiers will stop retreating and rally around a leader who is fighting back. This is a definite war movie moment set against a vastly different backdrop. You see nameless Alexandrians come out of their shelters and fight. You see Eugene give a monologue about not being able to take a day off. You see Glenn rally to save Maggie and then he, himself gets saved a second time by Abraham (the first time being outside of the prison).

Everything culminates in fire. Daryl sets the lake on fire and it consumes the rest of the walker herd. Fire is the only thing that can save the Alexandria Safe Zone, and now they have hundreds of bodies that need to be burned and disposed of. It seems like they're leaning towards rebuilding Alexandria. If so, why? For the running water and the convenience of suburban living? If anything, they need to look for a new compound to fortify and live in because Alexandria is now a tomb. How do you make everything work for you when what you need is a fortress, not a compound?

And is there anything more badass than Daryl setting a lake on fire?

Story Prompt


They drained a canal in Paris and this is one of the things they found.

A boombox, in the water, ruined for now but could it be restored? Could someone with a pair of fifty pound bags of rice dry out the components, flush out the mud, and wipe away the neglect? Could this thing be saved?

It wouldn't be practical (that's a lot of rice to use on an electronic device. That much rice could feed a lot of hungry people. But so could break dancing.

Break dancers feed the soul. They take the performance aspect of the Humanities into the streets and they move around, they take the music that works for their routine and they create something new. A breakdance team with the ability to draw people in can perform on the street for a few hours and make some cash. People can't help but throw money at breakdancers nowadays because it's so rare to see artistry like that. Instead of dressing up like a superhero, a select few of the elite breakdancers can turn everything you know on its ear and make a sheet of cardboard look like a glass floor.

Was there a rivalry that put this boombox at the bottom of the canal? Which faction and which group went to war and accomplished this battle task? Above all else, the boombox goes in the water or we don't win, they said. War is over if boombox goes in the drink, and you have to want it to make it happen. That's cold. Throwing someone's boombox in a canal is like cutting off an arm by accident.

I can imagine a jealous lover throwing the boombox in the canal. Love me, or lose me forever. If you're going to choose the boombox over me, guess what? It's already on the bottom of the canal.

Was there regret for throwing this thing into the water? There's little chance for regret after a prank like this. Waste of a good boombox, man. Waste of a good boombox.

Of course, they're going to pop this thing open and it'll have an Electric Light Orchestra cassette in it. Goddamn, I'd have thrown that thing into the water. Maybe I did when I was in Paris years ago and forgot. I hope they don't find my fingerprints. This is exactly the sort of crime that can be pinned to me because I've never been saintly about such things.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 5


If you're foolish enough to expect closure on the issue of Glenn Rhee, this episode will only infuriate and frustrate you. The corresponding dip in ratings for this season has clouded the issue because here we have a popular show that is firing on all cylinders with an absolutely terrible and manipulative front half of a season underway. If there's a negative reaction, it has to do with the awful way in which we are being introduced to the idea that Glenn's either dead or not dead.

Is this any way to tell a story? Only if you have contempt for your audience.

Anyway, the failure to deal with what happened to Glenn in a definitive manner puts up an argument that doesn't hold much water. From the viewpoint of the people making The Walking Dead, the storyline of what really happened to Glenn in that alley was moved along only marginally during this episode. We have Maggie and Aaron undertaking a fruitless journey through the sewers to try and find a way out of the Alexandria safe zone. This was done more to show off a pair of innovatively rotted walkers as opposed to really giving us any closure on the matter. This delivers Maggie's bombshell--I won't spoil it here--and Aaron's guilt but it leaves the issue open and festering.

The reason why stringing along the viewers doesn't work is because this show is presented from a very omniscient point of view. We are allowed to see everything so that there isn't any ambiguity. We have been given cliffhangers--the worst cliffhanger of all would have been putting everyone in the rail car at the end of Season Four--but we haven't been forced to suffer like this as viewers unless you count Sophia's disappearance and reappearance in Season Two. The difference here being the fact that there was much less invested in Sophia as a character than there is in Glenn.

"Killing" Glenn in an ambiguous way was the bridge too far in this season. We already have the tension created by the massive herd of walkers introduced at the beginning of the season. We already know that there's a Wolf locked in a townhome basement who swears he will kill everyone. We already have Enid running around with survivor's guilt. And we already suspect that Daryl, Abraham and Sasha have a bit of a problem of their own on their hands.

We've killed off half of Alexandria. Now we have the heartbreaking issue of what really happened to Glenn. I believe that this storyline has killed off goodwill and helped drive people away from the show. The simple act of removing him as a character is a choice that could be defended on any number of levels. But by not definitively killing him and leaving things open ended, the show teases the audience in a way that isn't necessary. Any show that does this and goes over the line opens up enmity from the audience and this was neither the time nor the place to try this sort of thing on for size.

Now that this is out of the way, we had a very strong episode featuring Alexandria's surviving residents and their counterparts in Rick's group. They are not meshed together nor are they capable of coming out of their exile from reality--except for Deanna, Jessie and fledgling Dr. Denise. This was a great episode for Tovah Feldshuh, Alexandra Breckenridge and Merrit Wever. We had a lesbian kiss, a straight kiss, and Deanna told some walkers to talk to the hand. Great performances all, and while the story doesn't move forward all that much, we do get to see the reaction to the Wolf attack and the first real test of the walls keeping them safe.

When blood runs down the wall at the end of the show, you already know the answer as to what will happen soon. It might be time to start thinking about an evacuation plan. When Rick kisses Jessie, we know that their blooming love is going to be doomed from the outset by the machinations of her oldest son and the helplessness of her youngest son. Criminally absent was Carol and her casserole.When Crazy Rick disappears and Sane, Tender Rick appears, we already know it won't last. Why isn't anyone trying to reduce the walkers on the perimeter? Why isn't anyone building a fortified citadel where they can all evacuate to if the wall is breached? Why didn't Morgan tell anyone he had a captive?

Collectively, let's all yell argh! and move on to other things.

And so, unfortunately, the fact that Sasha and Abraham are some twenty miles down the road leaves Alexandria without two powerful defenders. We'll deal with their story, and with Daryl's, next week. If there is still no closure with Glenn's storyline, don't worry. There's a mid-season cliffhanger coming, and it will probably extend his fate well into the back half of the season. This will, I think, go down as a poor decision but I've been wrong before.

Reading Books in America


This is an interesting development for people who think there is still a market for the printed word, and I don't think much has changed since I first published this piece over a year ago.
In my opinion, the rise in the number of people who don't read books does not mean that people are not reading. I think it is more a case where what they read has evolved to the point where the book is an irrelevant item in their lives.
Have you ever walked into someone's house and noticed whether or not they have books? An absence of books means one of two things--either they don't read them or they have a robust E-reader or tablet and have no further use for books. They have de-cluttered their life and adopted the digital library as a way of managing their space.  I can sympathize with that--I have books that are in Rubbermaid containers precisely because there isn't room for them. Should I chuck them out or should I save them?
The E-reader market has tanked in some ways because of the flood of mediocre material (people trying to cash in) and because the devices are not profitable enough when marketed against tablets that do more than one thing. When you think back about all of the people who are holding e-reader devices (hey, that's me!), there's almost no solution that looks like an upside. How do you carry around a library full of books on a device that is rendered obsolete in mere months? How many people are going to create a fully digitized library that has to be stored in the cloud or ported around or copied and re-copied? People are more likely to do that with the music they care about. Books, like old albums or songs that are tiresome, can fall away.
And, yes, I thought of this as well. Literacy isn't an issue:

The percentage of people who are not educated but can read? Is that increasing? I have no idea. I suspect that it is.
Complex, inaccessible, and pretentious literary offerings don't actually kill off readership--they simply turn people away from writers but not the medium itself. Stephen King is widely read because he delivers; being able to deliver isn't the same as being good or bad, but there's no way King could be considered a bad writer.
I don't know if people stop reading so much as they stop trying to engage written forms of entertainment. The human need remains. What fills those needs has evolved and changed with the technology, but the technology itself went straight past simple reading into the world of multi-media entertainment options. How many people use a Kindle Paperwhite as opposed to a tablet? And which one do you think is better for you?

The Demise of the E-book Market


Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?
Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.
He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."
For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.
The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

The Only Oscar Winner Worth Seeing


I never got around to writing about the Oscars because, like the Grammys, I view them as a complete and utter waste of time. This is because the culture, and the industries of music and film, have moved on, leaving the older generation completely in thrall of their own power to hand out awards and be relevant to a process they no longer care about.

The best movie I saw last year was Frozen. Hands down. And it's a billion dollar movie, to boot.

In terms of being influenced by actual literature, this film takes the Hans Christian Andersen tale of
Snedronningen, which is Danish for The Snow Queen, and makes it one of the most positive portrayals of women ever. For a Disney film to dispense with all of the cliches (except, of course, for the dead parents) is to open things up to a higher level of creativity.

Anyway, I love this film. I'm glad it won an Oscar. But it should have been nominated as best picture and it should have won.

How Many People Stop Reading Entirely?


This is an interesting development for people who think there is still a market for the printed word.

In my opinion, the rise in the number of people who don't read books does not mean that people are not reading. I think it is more a case where what they read has evolved to the point where the book is an irrelevant item in the lives of many.

Have you ever walked into someone's house and noticed whether or not they have books? An absence of books means one of two things--either they don't read them or they have a robust E-reader or tablet and have no further use for books. I can sympathize with that--I have books that are in Rubbermaid containers precisely because there isn't room for them. Should I chuck them out or should I save them?

The E-reader market has tanked in some ways because of the flood of mediocre material (people trying to cash in) and because the devices are unstable. When you think back about all of the people who are holding Nooks and Sony E-Readers (hey, that's me!), there's almost no solution that looks like an upside. How do you carry around a library full of books on a device that is rendered obsolete in mere months? How many people are going to create a fully digitized library that has to be stored in the cloud or ported around or copied and re-copied? People are more likely to do that with the music they care about. Books, like old albums or songs that are tiresome, fall away.

And, yes, I thought of this as well. Literacy isn't an issue:

The percentage of people who are not educated but can read? Is that increasing? I have no idea. I suspect that it is.

Complex, inaccessible, and pretentious literary offerings don't actually kill off readership--they simply turn people away from writers but not the medium itself. Stephen King is widely read because he delivers; being able to deliver isn't the same as being good or bad, but there's no way King could be considered a bad writer.

I don't know if people stop reading so much as they stop trying to engage written forms of entertainment. The human need remains. What fills those needs has evolved and changed with the technology.

No One Cared About Dexter


The cable series Dexter just ended and you would think people would have noticed. My impression is that no one gives a crap.

Breaking Bad is sucking up all of the TV oxygen right now. The next couple of days are going to be unbearable. The motif, the themes, the tie-ins, and all of that are overwhelming. There is nothing else happening in entertainment right now, literally.

Before Breaking Bad even started, Dexter was a hot show. It was dangerous, it made you think, and it took a startling look at ethics and ethical situations. It was groundbreaking.

Unfortunately, it also ran out of gas. If it had ended sooner, would that have mattered? And whose idea was it to end it right when Breaking Bad was happening the way that it is?

Someone did this show wrong, and Dexter will go down as a great also-ran in the history of television.

David Sedaris is the Living Embodiment of Awesomeness


Apparently, there's a whole other world out there that has been flying under the radar for years. It is the world of high school forensics, and it leans heavily on the published works of David Sedaris. At any given time, his essays are being read out loud or performed by students.

Sedaris has decided to embrace this and has included six pieces that are designed specifically to be read by forensics students. The students have responded by looking for less well-known pieces from writers who aren't as good as Sedaris. Pity the forensics student who decides to read some Bret Easton Ellis out loud.

How Many More of These Movies Do They Have to Make?


Movie reviews are usually meaningless pieces of direct marketing; are there any decent film critics left? Who is reliable? Anyone?

Here comes another Steve Carell film that probably shouldn't have been made. Apparently, he plays an unlikable character who goes all soft at the end. If that's how The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is supposed to be, what's the point of it all?

The film format requires some variation on delivering the transformative character journey. We see a bad person, we see the things they go through, and then, at the end, they are redeemed. This describes the formula that is required before a film gets made. And yet, some of the best stories on television feature people who learn nothing, refuse to grow, and end up accomplishing nothing. How is it that television is now more daring than cinema?