Back in the Game



Have you ever had a friend send you an email that requires a response, but that comes at a bad time that you can’t find the emotional energy to invest in a reply and must put it off for a bit? And then you let it linger on your to-do list for days that become weeks that become months? And the pressure to reply with substance mounts as it gets buried in your inbox, as you feel like a simple “Greetings” won’t suffice to let them know that you still care, but cannot do the relationship justice at the moment, through no fault of their own? And then it eats away at you, knowing that you need to engage but unsure how to to make up for your lack of effort?

Welcome to my blog.  An erratic but semi-substantive November, followed by a singular (yet momentous) December post. Then silence. Awkward silence. Silence that ate away at both my sense of online engagement and my readership stats. A silence that paralyzed me and my attempts to be a good blogger. Please, don’t take it personally.

But I’m back, with grading for the fall complete and a month with no immediate teaching responsibilities ahead of me. So I hope to become a regular blogger again, coupled with a fearsome push to complete the manuscript for my television textbook, complete revisions on a book chapter, write two presentations, participate in three faculty searches, prepare two courses for the spring, dedicate my fandom to the Patriots’ perfection and Celtics resurgence, catch up on some missed TV series, like Friday Night Lights and the last season of The Sopranos, and movies, enjoy the glory of Super Mario Galaxy on my new plasma TV (happy tenure!), and try to get regular exercise into my life. Something’s gotta give, I know, but I’m gearing up with ambition.

As for the blog, my first intent is to launch an ongoing discussion of season 5 of The Wire, which debuts tonight. This is the first season of what might be the greatest of all American television shows, that I will watch in weekly installments – the other 4 were consumed as a late-adopter on DVD/download. My sense is that the show is best consumed in a binge, as its slowly accruing narrative universe is well-served within a compressed environment of weeks rather than months. But I will savor my weekly rations of Baltimore, sharing impressions with any readers who are still here.

And one related aside: I’ve been semi-agnostic on the Presidential race, in part because I refuse to embrace the two-year horse race model of coverage, and in part because after Howard Dean broke my heart in 2004, I couldn’t invest myself too heavily in the primaries. But I think I found the deciding factor to sway my support: the candidates’ television preferences. Any minimal respect I had for Fred Thompson eroded upon reading that he actually likes Chris Berman, and Hillary’s choices seem too calculatedly designed to embrace trends. But for his mention of The Wire as one of his favorite shows of all time, I hereby jump on the Obama bandwagon! I want a president who has spent hours invested in David Simon’s vision of 21st century America rather than one who likes HGTV makeover shows.


13 Responses to “Back in the Game”

  1. I’ve decided that I’m going to just assume that my readers/interlocutors are like me…even a late email is better than none and any blog update is of the good. Welcome back and happy new year!

    I love the TV preferences thing, though my favorite has to be McCain picking I, Claudius. (At least it’s not House of Cards : )

  2. Welcome back! I know that feeling, way too well — hence the reason for my own deliberate, concentrated attempt to get back into the post-a-day practice this year. Oh, and I may have free time, but you’ve got tenure! Wanna trade? 😉

  3. Yes, welcome back. I’ve also declared an intent to blog weekly about the final season of The Wire (seriously, with almost the same words). Makes me wonder if it would be possible to organize a season long blogathon.

  4. Nice to see you on my reader again, ol’ friend 😉

    Obama liking The Wire is indeed a reason to vote for him … though I’m most bemused by McCain being a fan of Lost (do you think he’s a Kate-Sawyer shipper?).

    I get HBO again today just for The Wire, though Brian Rose scared me by saying the first two eps are crummy. For the record, though, I watched Seasons 1-3 in hyper-binge, then S4 weekly, which was painful, but ultimately didn’t stop me loving it around ep. 5, 6, or so, so don’t worry too much

  5. We too are binging on the Wire, and we’re too late to the party to be ready for season 5 with the rest of America, thus I’m avoiding anything that looks like spoilage. The first two seasons follow a pattern of being confusing for a few initial episodes and I think this would frustrate me much more if I had to wait a week between them, but once you know what to expect (big payoff if you persist) it’s prob easier to look past this if it’s an obstacle to liking the show and sticking with it.

    I do like the thought of a president who has watched The Wire, though obvs there are more serious qualifications. It was interesting to see the list of movies Reagan watched while in office when his diaries were published. What does Bush watch? According to reports, A&E Biography and sports, but he might lie about this sort of thing (like when he said he doesn’t read newspapers).

    Not to be confused with an endorsement of Ms. Clinton: after buying our 1st house last spring we could not stop watching HGTV. It has so many appeals. Makeover shows invite our scrutiny of aesthetic and creative choices (much like some competition shows e.g. Project Runway). Decorating the home is something everyone does whether they think they’re doing it or not (cf. the scene in Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep chastises Anne Hathaway for thinking she’s above fashion), and is part of the experience of everyday life. There’s the whole middle-class house porn fantasy thing, the vicarious experience of luxe and art and taste. Pretty powerful stuff if done well. Viewers might also get off on the superiority we feel when we think the designers try too hard or do something gaudy or inappropriate for the homeowner–it affirms our own everyday taste as valid too. I recommend Divine Design most of all if anyone is interested. (I probably like it because it’s Canadian, fwiw.) Color Splash and Design on a Dime are fun too. The househunting and buying/selling shows are engaging and disturbing in their own ways, but never as appealing to me as the design shows.

  6. Welcome to 2008, my friend. I’m right behind you, blogging-wise. The thing is, there’s so many things going on, many of which are eminently bloggable, and many of which are eminently tenure-able. Needs must, I defer to the latter.

    We still haven’t jumped on The Wire wagon just yet,I think more for reasons of physical and mental exhaustion in general than anything else. It feels like being asked to take on Joyce, for some reason, and we ain’t up for that just yet!

    That said, I’ll (ideally; see above) blog about the upcoming seasons of BSG and Doctor Who as they unfurl, and I would hope to see some Lost-age on your blog starting in a few weeks.

    Oh, and go Chargers! (LT was once my student back in the day, and SD is our second home-in-spirit).

  7. Good to have you back to regular blogging – we all know how easy it is to slip into an unintended break.

    As for TV prefs, Edwards gets points for me, because Perry Mason was my favorite show as kid and young teenager (camp sensibility sets in early for lots of gay men, I suppose!). And his Fred Thompson quip is funny. Like Michael, I’ll stand up for home makeover shows, even if I find them to have diminishing returns quickly. I see what you mean by Clinton seeming calculated, but all of the others seemed so masculinist in their choices (except Romney!) that her selections are welcome to me.

  8. As currently Wire-obsessed, I’m tickled about the Obama pick, but can’t help but be a bit uncomfortable with the idea that the only woman in the race is getting slammed here for claiming to like feminized TV. When we diss feminized television like HGTV we can, perhaps inadvertently, disparage all things feminine as well. When a candidate is already being slammed any number of sexist ways, it doesn’t help the cause of gender equality in politics–or in media culture–to point out a female candidate’s inferiority on the basis of her feminized TV pick. I took your comments as a joke, Jason, but I’m getting so irritated by what seems to me to be relentlessly sexist Hillary-bashing that I had to respond.

  9. Elana – my anti-Hillary joke was not that it was more feminine (& thus less valid) than the others, but that it felt so “focus-group” created – “what can I say that will resonate with middle-class women but not make me sound too girly?” Whereas The Wire, Damages, and I, Claudius aren’t things anyone would say to be politically appealing except but for the narrowest minority. But that might not have come across…

    Thanks all for the comments everybody!

  10. Agreed re: Hillary’s picks, Jason. It’s not that watching these would make her an inferior viewer or person, it’s that I plain don’t believe it. It seems like she gave the questionnaire to Chelsea or a young intern. Elana’s comment, though, does point out that it’s sad how “guy-ish” all the other’s picks had to be (whether as performance or reality). That said, a recent Entertainment Weekly asked various stars about their fav shows, and The Rock’s was America’s Most Wanted, so at least nobody matched him there 😉

  11. Jonathan – of course Rudy G. didn’t respond to TV Guide, and I can certainly imagine him citing America’s Most Wanted as a major fandom!

    And the exception to the guy-ishness of the other picks was Mitt sneaking Grey’s Anatomy in there… don’t know what’s up with that, as I can’t imagine the Mormon elders would approve either!

  12. 12 Michael Roberts

    Well, like you and others residing with me in the comments box, I always seem to be continually vowing to Blog more and somehow, like you, my plans are swept away in the tumult of activity and year end craziness…Maybe we can all create a support group; Lazy Bloggers Anonymous.

    “Hi, I’m Mike and I’m neglecting my Blog”
    “Hi, Mike!”

    As well, I feel I’ve been seriously remiss in NOT watching “The Wire” since everyone I know and respect seems to think I’m nuts for NOT being into it more….. I did watch an episode or three but found the violence and senseless death too disturbing….maybe I just need to gird my emotional loins and watch it…

  1. 1 The Chutry Experiment » Iowa Caucus Narratives

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