It occurs to me, with the new Tribune link, that I’m getting some new readers these last few days. They may not be acquainted with the way things work around here. They may think, when they read "tomorrow" at the end of an entry, that it means I’ll be back with another entry tomorrow. Not necessarily. I’ve been on vacation for most of the last month, and I’ve lost track of time, which is why I signed off incorrectly on Thursday. The regular Monday-through-Friday progression is no longer meaningful in my sluggardly life, although that’s about to change. Kate starts school Tuesday; the Fellowship gets under way Thursday. No more happy loafing for me.
And that’s fine. Even with Ann Arbor to explore, I’m needing a little structure, and a bit more to do. I’ve caught up on my sleep, done my little chores, settled in. Let the Fellowshipping begin, as well as first grade. Kate needs a little armature in her life, too. And Alan’s been perusing the course catalog, too. We’re all about to become students. Oh, happy day.
College is like youth — wasted on the young. This is going to be such a great year.
I can’t really say that’s entirely true. I certainly enjoyed college (Ohio University, class of ’78) plenty, but not in the way I should have. It wasn’t until junior year that the classes really began to engage my attention, and by then I was caught up in the student-newspaper whirl, turning in papers written at the last minute on the back of long rolls of teletype paper, with wire-service copy on the other side. This obnoxious inattention to presentation was our way of telling the English faculty, "You think I’ve got time for Shakespeare? I’m writing funny captions for AP pictures at 3 a.m., buddy." Childish, but lots of fun. This will be different.
I don’t know if it’s OK for Warren Zevon to go ahead and leave this mortal plane, because by passing up the VH-1 special on his final recording sessions to watch the last episode of "The Wire," it would seem he’s lost his No. 1 fan. But to me, there’s no contest. There are people who find the sight of Bruce Springsteen jamming on a guitar fascinating, but I’m not one of them. And how can anyone pass up the best show on TV when it’s winding up the last of its tragic storyline? It’s all moot, when the wonder of cable TV is: Everything gets replayed, eventually. I’ll watch WZ Tuesday evening, but I had to know about doomed Frank Sobotka first.
Speaking of which, HBO posted a transcript of an interview-of-sorts with the show’s producer, David Simon. Fans submitted questions — and it’s good to know that regular people, given the chance, come up with pretty much the same assortment of good and stupid questions, in about the same proportions, as professionals — and he answered them. I found this snippet interesting:
Do forums like these bulletin boards provide any useful information for you, the actors or the HBO decision makers? Some see them as merely outlets for the fans. But certainly they can provide an almost instant glimpse into the reactions and thoughts of fans regarding a show and whether or not you have successfully conveyed your ideas.
We scan the boards when we have time, but we don’t use them for biofeedback. I’ll be honest: I learned while writing for Homicide that viewers, if they could have their say, would generally wish for the same things over and over again. They like a show for given reasons and so they watch the show to see those reasons affirmed. Writers do not want to write the same story over and over and actors do not want to portray the same stories over and over. On Homicide, the devoted viewers wanted every episode to end with Pembleton using his intellect and power to break a murderer down in The Box. Neither Andre Braugher nor the writers were prepared to recreate the same episodes over and over. Same with The Wire. Many viewers, it seems, wanted more Barksdale family and were unprepared to venture to a new world with new issues. Understandable. But to do the same show over again and deal with the same issues is to kill the creative aspect of the show.
Next year, something new. And to the extent that the Barksdale characters are still being explored it is only because we feel there is more to say about them and their world. If not for that, they would be gone completely. Instead, we feel that they are an excellent vehicle to capture a future theme of the show. But that is character serving story, not the other way around.
Too bad someone can’t teach this lesson to Dick Wolf. Maybe "Law & Order" would be worth watching again.
There’s some other good stuff on there, about the challenge, to viewers, of presenting a novel in television form, something we haven’t seen much of before. It’s been the biggest frustration as a fan, wanting to recommend it to others, but you can’t, because if you don’t get on the bus at the very first stop, you’re not going to understand the journey. On the other hand, there are enough people on this particular bus there are plenty to discuss it with.
You see I’ve changed the nightstand reading, finally. I try to keep up with it — it didn’t really take me three weeks to get through "The Sugar House" — but I’m somewhat limited by whether Amazon has a cover image for me to filch. The two new ones this week are the product of a Border’s raid Saturday night. The Manchester book, about the middle ages, one of those black holes of my historical knowledge, was a late inspiration. The guy on the lounge chair next to me at the pool yesterday was reading it, while his wife perused a biography of Harriet Tubman. I was just writing Amy that it’s one of the shocks of living in Ann Arbor — seeing people reading real books right out in public.
That’s not to say no one reads in the Fort — we do have that excellent public library — just that if I never hear another enthusiastic recommendation of the latest "Left Behind" volume, it’ll be too soon. My friend Nancy in Atlanta says "Left Behind" is the No. 1 mass-transit read down there with not just a bullet, but about a million bazookas.