19 February, 2011

Harry the Hat and Gary have a meeting up at Melville's...

Four months to the day after I started writing the first chapter, I've finished the second draft of the book. That was a gruelling experience, going through every single word to make sure it fit. That said, there were some bits I'd forgotten that I really liked, and I was quite impressed with how the whole 'make it up as you go along' thing worked. I've still got to do at least a third draft, making sure the characters, plot and themes are actually consistent. Everything *feels* right, but there are a few places where I'm not sure it *is* right.

It's actually somewhat educational. I tend to polish quite a bit even while writing the first draft (believe it or not), but very few pieces I've written were scrutinized this much. I must have made 60 changes per page at least, basically one edit every fifteen words. I'm a damned good writer, and it's humbling to see so much that needs to be fixed. In the last few weeks, even the prospect of getting closer to done wasn't an incentive to keep slogging through pages.

Work is going reasonably well. I'm running an arms room and putting up with some long hours and odd problems that arise. Challenging to get used to, but sort of fun that way as well.

Currently a number of Middle Eastern countries are in flames. Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Iran, not to mention Egypt and probably others I've forgotten. There's not a lot of news. A blonde infidel woman who dressed as a whore was sexually assaulted in Egypt by a group of Muslim men who shouted "Jew". Fortunately she was saved by Egyptian women and soldiers, but it's not likely other Western newscasters will journey out too far. It's almost as horrible as covering the Tea Party.

By the way, where are the men of the Muslim world on the assault of Lara Logan? That is a total breaking point between civilization and barbarism. The demonstrators in Egypt seem to be a mixture - that varies for every individual - of desire for freedom and liberty, desire for order and stability even to the point of despotism, desire to be good Muslims and desire to be Egyptians. No nation is civilized where a woman can not walk by herself with a reasonable expectation of safety, even an infidel dressed like a whore. Non-negotiable.

Or, as a British imperialist is once reported to have said, we'll respect their customs as long as they respect our custom of shooting anybody who treats a woman that way.

I'm sure anybody in Egypt who has the slightest inclination towards American interests would jump at the chance to find this mob and serve them up on a platter. It would make a nice test of a civilized legal system, conclusively proving their guilt before execution. But what about those Egyptians who don't have an inclination towards American interests? Where do they stand on this animal behavior?

The leftist internet sites I peruse all work to avoid the elephant in the room that it might have been an expected response of violent Muslim men to sexually assault an infidel woman. Those that don't digress into hair-splitting definitions of rape and privacy in general - with regular references to the awful Republican patriarchy - assume that the assault was committed by thugs of Mubarek's regime with no evidence whatsoever. Then there's the sickos (the kind who defend Roman Polanski, Julian Assange, John Edwards, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, shariat law even when it contradicts their supposed feminism) who think Logan had it coming for being a "warmonger".

But hey, the left is suddenly all about freedom in the Muslim world. Showing no trace of irony, the current demonstrators in Wisconsin are claiming solidarity with Egyptian demonstrators, against governor Hitler Mubarek. Showing his usual good sense, even the President has already opined, first stipulating that he knows nothing about it, but then saying it's clearly an assault on unions and therefore bad. Way to be President of the entire nation there, champ.

Despite every bit of evidence that entitlement spending is creating a crisis in every state and nation, public teachers in Wisconsin are calling in sick to go demonstrate - some of them bringing their students - rather than even consider any changes to their contract that would bring them down to the taxpayer's level. This just four months after said taxpayers voted Republicans for governor and both houses of the legislature. Somebody's cranky.

What do they think they're doing by claiming solidarity with the Egyptian demonstrators? The Muslim Brotherhood is probably the largest and most influential organization in the world still in existence that openly sided with the Nazis during the war, and played a large role in the on-going popularity of "Mein Kampf" (which FYI translates to "Jihad") Are they so blind as to not see who is waiting to profit from their lunacy?

I guess not, they don't have a chance, but they're out there anyway. There's no money. An engine won't move if there's no gas.

It sounds like there's a Tea Party planned this weekend, now that everybody else who had to work for a living has some time off. They already voted for people who promised to cut spending, public employees have no real basis for this strike. They think they're oppressed now, wait until they see their fellow Wisconsans coming out after morning prayers tomorrow.

Here's the montage of "Cheers" clips set to the full-length theme song on its 200th episode spectacular. I'm not sure why I've been thinking of the series lately, but for whatever reason I've been suddenly recalling some line or scene, whether or not I cared for them at the time.

It's still an interesting show. I think, this clip is the first video I've seen of the show in quite some time, but I found myself laughing anyway at how many forgotten moments there were. I barely recall what episode half of them were from, and almost none of them came to mind when thinking about the show before this.

This montage was biased towards physical comedy, but as I remember there was a surprising amount of it in the show. Surprising, but you don't think of "Cheers" as a show about physical comedy. Somewhere between "Night Court" and "Family Ties" on the sitcom scale [courtesy of the Nick-At-Nite "Better Living Through Television" scale of measurement], there was actually physical humor. Sam and Diane's slap-fest, or almost any time Kirstie Alley was genuinely funny. Think about that, yeah the writers gave her some good lines, but the places Rebecca works the best are when she's doing something physical, jumping over the bar or something. Without that, she collapsed into whining and the last seasons really look like the writers had a memo 'don't forget to give Kirstie something to do this week' when putting together every new episode.

The show also worked as an ensemble, where any of the characters were capable of holding a main plot or a sub-plot. I understand it was something of a pioneer in season-long story arcs for the characters, which I assume grew out of the Sam-Diane-Rebecca relationship. It did bring the domestic/romantic comedy into the workplace - unlike "Taxi" or "Mary Tyler Moore", two workplace sitcoms preceeding "Cheers" from the same creators. [Random example: David Lloyd, who wrote MTMs "Chuckles Bites The Dust" wrote the very physically-active "Woody's Wedding" late in "Cheers" run.]

The ensemble cast really helped bring the show to the gold standard of television as episodic entertainment, that of characters we want to see again and keep current on their latest adventures. The kind of show comics used to be good at. I would like to think that it was the last great show, but I stopped watching TV ages ago. After "Cheers", there was "Seinfeld" and then "Friends". Ray Romano had a show, and "Two and a Half Men" has been on for many years before it became "Will Charlie Sheen Live To The Next Episode?" To me the sitcom is dead, but there are many viewers who disagree with me.

On an NBC Anniversary special several years after the show ended, most of the cast reunited, in character, to be there. It was nice to see them all again, as was the reunion for a mid-late episode of "Frasier", a show that had nearly as much objective success as its parent, but never came close to being the same cultural touchstone. As a then-current NBC star, Kelsey Grammar had his own segment of the same anniversary show.

Amusingly, it was interrupted by Bob Newhart, complaining about all these people from NBC being at a CBS function. "Bob, this is NBC." Bob says that's not what he heard, pointing to Bill Dailey sitting in front of him, next to Barbara Eden. "Um, Bob, I was on CBS too." Later Bob showed up and mentioned his first show did run briefly on NBC, and introduced some other guest. It was a fun show, as many various casts as possible were brought out, and in character.

It was followed a few months later by a similar show on CBS which did the same thing. Highlights of that show include John Schneider and Tom Wopat doing a gawdawful country-music medley of CBS theme songs and a clip of Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette waking up in bed, again. "Oh Bob, not that dream about the three woodsmen again."

"Cheers" has been released in full on DVD, I even have one season (somewhere). As has "Frasier", and even "The Bob Newhart Show." Unfortunately, "Newhart" has not been released beyond its first season, which is a shame. It's a show that really stands up, especially because it was so untopical. Except for the outfits and a very few pop culture references, there's nothing whatosever to place what time it was made.

And it was hilarious. "Newhart" was Bob's attempt to follow up his earlier show, with Mary Frann and Tom Poston backing him up. Mary Frann did an excellent job in the extremely unenviable position of following Suzanne Pleshette's footsteps, but watching the first season, nothing prepared me for how awesome Tom Poston was. If the adjectives "understated" and "zany" can be combined, and then given steroids, that's his version of George Utley, banal handyman extraordinaire.

Steve Kampmann was very good as Kirk, the compulsive liar and slimeball who operated the cafe next door. The character was just too limited to be useful, too little Ted Baxter, too much Frank Burns. In the second season, he was given a girlfriend (Cindy the clown) and then written out. Also in the first season was Jennifer Holmes as Leslie Vanderkellen. They gave her lots of interesting things to do, but it just wasn't working. Like Markie Post's early appearances on "Night Court" (or possibly Harry Morgan's appearance in MASH soon before COL Potter showed up), when Julia Duffy makes an appearance having a fling with Kirk, it's clear what direction the show will need to go.

The first season includes most of the characters who would be around for the entire series, mostly as quirky townsfolk. The Mayor and his crony, the sheriff who spoke in monotone, Larry, Darryl and Darryl. These characters and more would go on to dominate the show, but they're all in the first season. Really, Peter Scolari as Michael Harris, producer of Bob's tv show, would be the only change in the cast for the rest of the show. And Michael and Stephanie's baby, if you want to count her.

Dammit, Youtube also doesn't have Bob Newhart's appearance on the Murphy Brown show, come to retrieve his secretary Carol, the one competent assistant Murphy found during her entire show.

Speaking of that show, funny how that one doesn't seem to be remembered anymore. It was topical, no doubt about that. I remember it as being funny too, but it's been a while. That show ran into problems, some of which affect most sitcoms (changing cast members), too much topic-of-the-week, and some of which it brought on itself. In the long run, who was supported by that big deal about Murphy having her baby? Candice Bergen herself said (years later) Dan Quayle was right about a father's importance.

It wasn't the first show to jump the shark after having a baby. But all the extra attention given to the issue because of Murphy's baby - no thanks to Mr. Quayle; I know the Vice-President doesn't have anything better to do, but geez, doesn't the Vice-President have anything better to do? - went away, and then the kid just interferred with their storylines. So they ditched the kid, freely admitting it in E! TV retrospectives and the historical record. Towards the end, when ratings were dropping, they did an oh-so-touching arc about Murphy and breast cancer, and brought the kid back magically aged enough to feel sorry for her. Way to help prove the Muslims wrong, guys.

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