It’s a column night, and I have two problems: no idea, and so uninspired I actually began a Bleat with “it’s a column night.” There’s almost no chance I’ll be able to watch MORE TV, as my new resolution demands.
If that sounds horrible and shallow, what if I said the TV was opera? Oh that’s okay. What if I said it was a fine drama based on classic literature? Oh well that’s edifying. So it’s not the act of watching, it’s what you watch? No, passive consumption of moving images is still wasted time. How about if I’m listening to opera and just looking at the CD cover? You don’t have any opera CDs. You don’t like opera and if you did, you wouldn’t have the CD cover. Okay, so I’m listening to opera, but starting at the cover art in iTunes.
Why would you do that when you could watch the opera on YouTube?
Ah: so it’s okay to watch a tiny window on my computer at my desk, but not sit on the sofa and watch a big screen.
Yes, because there’s a keyboard and you might pause it and do something useful.
But there’s a keyboard on the kitchen table two yards away, and I frequently pause the TV to write something.
Are you done? I don't really exist, you know.
Yeah, I’m done.
TV wise: I know “The Blacklist” is a good show because I liked the 14 eps I saw, and Daniel Knauf is involved now. He did “Carnivale,” and I have great respect for his work. Apparently he penned some killer eps. I kept meaning to get back to it, having forgotten why I stopped binging, and the other night I picked up where I left off.
Remembered the basics quickly enough, but right away I thought: leaving in mid-binge was a mistake. The curiosity, the building of arcs, the big Questions, they matter when you’re tearing through something. But step away, and: poof. Now I’m at the point where I don’t care about the individual stories - I just want the arc. But I can’t have the arc without watching the individual eps. I can skip ahead but it won’t mean anything.
Doesn’t really mean anything now, alas. I ruined it. I stopped. I broke it.
Then I remember the shows I started and never gave up - there was something that grabbed me, something I had to see, something that I knew would reward me. “Fringe” being the best example. All the characters, I liked. It had a hook in every show. It had energy and humor. When I compare the two I realize that there’s no one I really like in “Blacklist” except for Red, and he’s a shadowy presence in the shows.
But! I could be wrong. Was up to speed after on ep, started another. It began with something on the other side of the world that would eventually connect to something else and then there would be that one secret agent who was doing that thing and the husband was bad and Red would show up at some point and say something in his patient “it’s obvious but it wouldn’t be obvious to you and that is both amusing and annoying to me but I'll explain it anyway” tone and then the FBI boss would bark something in a room lit by one 20-watt bulb, because that’s the FBI since the X-Files, and so on. And so on.
In a way, quitting is liberating.
Life is what you leave behind as much as what you take up, to make a ridiculously grandiose statement about a TV show, indicating I should shut up and move on. But it goes to the way we watch TV these days, perhaps - where once people watched TV, period, and the content was secondary, now we search for perfectly tailored content, and if it doesn’t impress right away, we move along. My Netflix timeline is littered with things I never finished. It seems ridiculous to finish something just because you started it - the opposite of what we're supposed to do.
Eh. I’ve always been a big fan of quitting something if it’s no longer interesting. An old Woody Allen movie came up on Netflix, and since it was from the period where I stopped caring at all what he did, I thought I should give it a try. Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Wise-cracking rat-a-tat-tat 40s newspaper “comedy.” Beautifully shot, of course. Great period detail. Fine supporting cast. And there’s Woody in his fedora, looking 90, stammering his way through the thing, throwing out lines that resemble most of his latter-day comedy: they have the shape and aroma of humor, but not the flavor.
Which is one way of saying they’re not funny. But. On Amazon he has a six-ep series, in which he plays a novelist - S.J. Munsinger, a nod to S.J. Perelman, a hero of his. Set in the 60s. The first episode was surprisingly watchable, for the secondary cast and scenes of middle-class life in the 60s. Allen appears ancient and slow and bent, which might be the character, but probably not. I’m sure some 25-year-old girl is going to find him irresistible at some point soon.
Ah: watching ep 2 now. Miley Cyrus shows up and mouths clanging lines about the Fascist Pigs. Elaine May is doing a great job as a walking object lesson about the annoying failure of denture-plate adhesives.
Why was Woody a Hero? Because he was a nerd and a romantic, a humorist and a Learned Man. All those Russian lit references. The Bogart admiration. In high school I saw the earlier, funny work in the theater - Love and Death, Sleeper - and Woody was like Mel Brooks, a guaranteed laff riot. Then came “Annie Hall,” the great nerd wish-fulfillment narrative; you can be short and scrawny with stupid hair but DIANE KEATON WILL LOVE YOU because you are special and funny. The movie is a mess, but its rambling construction serves it well, and it really seemed immediate and real, unlike typical Hollywood movies. It had vintage flashbacks! It made fun of stupid shallow people. It reassured the dork class that their wit would give them friends like Tony Roberts. (Who they could look down on, but from close up.)
You look at your various Heroes, and try to remember when they started to disappoint you, and why. The classical composers, no. Beethoven did not disappoint as he went on. Mahler did not, nor Bruckner. Allen broke something with “Stardust Memories,” as I’ve written before, an ugly F-you to the wrong people who had the gall to enjoy his work. He made great movies after that, and a about a fortnight’s worth of meaningless films. S.J. Perelman disappointed me by doing the same thing with less ability, tired and mannered. The Marx Brothers lost it at the end. Some we forgive and some we don’t; seems to do with whether they were also good people, inasmuch as we can know such things.
Ricky Gervais disappointed me, because he turned into a braying atheist who was the first person EVER to discover a logical argument against faith. And he shared it with everyone! Fantastic. I thought it him last night when watching “Detectorists,” a quiet little British TV show with Mackenzie Crook - the English Steve Buscemi - and Toby Jones. Crook was the startled stork Gareth in the original “Office,” of course, and was superb; he wrote and directed this show about a couple of small-town metal-detecting enthusiasts. Like the best of Steve Coogan’s work, it regards its subjects with affection. (In the end, we have to love Alan Partridge, because it would be ridiculous to hate a ridiculous man who isn’t as good as he thinks he is, but isn’t as bad as he sometimes fears he might be.) It’s small scale, funny, and I’m invested and sympathetic after two short episodes.
The world is not at stake, just the small world of the characters. And even so it’ll all be okay.
Now that the insufferable advice columns are done, let's look at the cheap ads for cheap junk in the back of the cheap mags. And they were bottom-rate junk; most magazines aimed at the ghoul enthusiasts were cheap, and smelled musty after a week.
Ed Big Daddy Roth-style Kustom Kulture Weird-Ohs. Also know as "Car-Icky-Tures." Art by Bill Campbell. (Big gallery at the link.)
Let's see Davey - I'm sorry, 'Davey' in full color action:
As for Huey in the middle of the bottom row - he's driving an outhouse.
That's just a portion of the monster-mag ad. The rest tomorrow.
Government Agents vs. the Phantom Legion: it's all about shipping schedules.
And, as we like to ask, how did that go?
You know what would be amusing? If he rolled over and the car stayed on the road.
Our henchmen show their usual attention to detail:
When has any assumption they've made about anything been correct? Why didn't they just block Hal's car, force him out, shoot him dead and burn the records? How do they know the records weren't thrown clean when the car tumbled down? The Phantom, like all other serial villains, has to draw from the same poor pool of henches.
Well, now what? I'll bet we go back to the Office of Trucking Plutocrats . . .
Yes. Just noticed that the building was not built in 1902, but established. Hal tells the board that his records and notes were destroyed, but he has some duplicates and can do the rest from memory, and he can give that to the District Attorney. The board, again, is getting testy, because c'mon Mr. Government Agent, they've made ten attempts on your life and you can't figure out what the HELL IS GOING ON?
Then Hal finds out something: he has the wavelength of the radios that Regan uses! (That's the main hench.) Why, they could triangulate on his signal! They could figure out a way to lure Regan to chase him and try to kill him! AGAIN! The Phantom's sub-henches follow Hal around, and we see the same main street with theater that's in every - damned - Republic serial:
Odd they're doing a car routine here; it's been a while since we had a fistfight. Hal leads the hences on a chase, which at least gives us a running gun battle, but it ends when he parks and runs into the same old damned desert with its rocky hills, also known as The Moon depending on the serial.
Finally, Regan realizes he's being set up by the scriptwriter:
But that was the plan, remember? Now, TRIANGULATION!
Regan gets the Evidence, which Hal just left in his car after he ran away, and says "this sounds phony," but takes it anyway. He calls the Phantom on the radio, who says "okay, well, come back to HQ, but be careful, because this might be some scheme to locate me." Clever fellow. Turns out they TRIANGULATE instantly, and discover that the Phantom is located at 4th and Main: THE METZ BUILDING!
It's all coming together. Our Government Agents find the right office in 32 seconds, and so:
Oh, it's hats-on fisty fun galore, but then:
I know it's been a workmanlike entry, but I like it.
Deep down, I like them all.
The conclusion of the Frigidaire brochure - and there's words I never thought I'd say before I started this site.