Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What to do?

It's a beautiful spring morning in Edmonton, another in what's becoming a decent string of them. It's tough for me to get worried about the revelations made to a Commons committee by one-time government insider and high-profile Canadian blogger Warren Kinsella. I'm having a hard time getting excited about the Martin government, all of a sudden, announcing a bunch of policy. (Gee, I wonder if the Liberals are already fighting the next election?) I can't even get myself worked up about the installation of Benedict XVI.

But I'm a leading Canadian blogger. I have responsibilities.

Aw, screw it. There are plenty of opinions out there, most of them interesting. Let me tell you about what I've been watching and reading, instead.

First of all, the second season of Arrested Development has come to a close. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a sitcom, and part of the secret of the success is that the humour here is in the "sit(uation)" part. Standard sitcom formula has several people gathered together (in a home, a workplace, a coffee shoppe) and they say witty things to one another. Plots aren't the source of the humour, they're the launching point of the witticisms. In AD, the situations and plots are funny, but the moment the characters make any effort to be witty, that character invaribly is greeted by embarrassed silence and discomfort. The show is clever, in the way Faulty Towers was clever, with twisting plots that often manage to dovetail, sometimes only in future episodes (or even just the fake "next episode" clips at the end). The show is genre-referential, perhaps too much so, but it adds to the rewatchibility of each episode (as do the details, every bit as richly laid in as any episode of The Simpsons). Without going to far into detail, here, an example: Ron Howard is the narrative voice on the show. Henry Winkler plays a sleazy lawyer. You can't possibly hear those two voices together without noticing the man behind the curtain. Another example: Jason Bateman plays the uber-responsible anchor to his disfunctional family. The ultimate straight man, for the first while it's impossible to see him without recalling his lengthy bad sitcom history.

Long story short (too late for that, I suspect), the show is sharp, and makes me believe in the potential of sitcoms again. And yet it's in a fight to be renewed, since Fox has it up against Desperate Housewives. Note to Fox: stick with Arrested Development. DH has the future of Ally McBeal - It starts out sharp and clever, feeling fresh and funny. In two seasons it'll deteriorate into unbearable melodrama. And if I'm wrong, hey, there's just some shows that can't be beat. You have to schedule something against them - why not a show where you can recoup your losses in DVD sales?

As for my reading selections lately, there are advantages to moving to Edmonton. I'm excited to have my first library card in years. (Note to residents of the County of Wheatland - next municipal election, put your representitives' feet to the fire. When will they begin subscribing to library services again, or produce their own as they claimed they would do when they withdrew from the Marigold Library system? I'm sure there are other municipalities in Canada that offer no library services to its residents, but I don't know where. It's shameful.) So the first thing I searched for in the card catalouge (okay, it was a computer catalouge. It's been a long time since I've had a library membership) was Michael Chabon, author of one of my favourite recent reads, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. That book was a fictional account about the co-creators of doubly-fictional Golden Age superhero The Escapist. Others agreed with me - this was a fine book.

Imagine my surprise to discover that Dark Horse Comics has begun publishing The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist, allowing artists and writers to create stories fitting into the false history Chabon crerated for this character. Imagine my further surprise that the Edmonton Public Library offers graphic novels.

Anyone who has enjoyed comics with any seriousness (I'm talking to you, Mr. and Ms Bear, and you, Mr. NZ teacher, and --- well, actually, much of my readership. If you read The Dark Knight, or better yet, The Watchmen, consider yourself included.) should start with Kavalier and Clay, and then discover the most interesting thing happening in comics today thinks it happened years ago.

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