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welcome back, television. [five things.]

First, some thoughts I was having the other day. Television received the well-placed ire of the educated for some time. At best, it was a guilty pleasure people used to unwind in small doses, as well as the most convenient way to watch sports. At worst, it was a time sucking hole into which people through their hopes of a better life. The chance of seeing a well told story on tv was so slim for most of its history. There were certainly flashes of brilliance, like Seinfeld and The West Wing. There were shows that were too good to stay on the air, like Arrested Development and Firefly. And there was HBO, which has always been head and shoulders above anything else as far as original programming is concerned. Yet, for the last decade or so, things have been changing. People are trying to create truly great content for television, to the point that now television has become an artistically viable medium. What the what?

This point was really hammered home for me when I realized that so many legitimate and well respected actors are moving to television, and not just television, but network television. Television used to be an elephant graveyard, where once great -or at least, once popular- talents went to die. Gena Davis and Christian Slater tried to make the network tv thing work towards the end, and when even that didn’t work it was clear they were finished forever. Then the talent pool started improving, with Alec Baldwin heading to 30 Rock. He hadn’t had a hit movie in some time, so it was certainly in his best interest to become a big fish in the small network pond, but the man is a fantastic comedic actor, and he is one of the few parts that 30 Rock simply wouldn’t work without. His success there seems to have at least something to do with more actors making the move to the small screen.

Still, Ken Jeong heading to Community as a permanent cast member right around the time his star was rising its fastest? Zooey Deschanel taking her own sitcom? Will Ferrell volunteering to do a short stint on The Office? Maria Bello doing a procedural cop show? Christina Ricci joining Pan Am? Amber Heard on The Playboy Club? Adam Scott joining the cast of Parks and Rec right around the time in his career that most actors are leaving TV behind to seem more legitimate? Something is different. Actors would always head over to TV for a guest appearance to win an Emmy or two, show up on Law & Order or Friends for an ep. to collect some awards and acclaim and move on, but now actors are attaching to shows permanently. TV doesn’t have the stigma it once had.

Anyway, I’m not going anywhere with that. I should, but my brain isn’t working too well these days.

I just figured I would share that before heading into the five shows I’m most excited to see back this fall.

1. Community

It’s possibly my favorite comedy on television. I can’t wait to see what sorts of homages and references this season brings! We already got Abed calling their fake version of Doctor Who the greatest show he’s ever seen. Also, taking an already amazing show and adding John Goodman and Omar (I really hope they have him whistle “A Hunting We Will Go/The Farmer in the Dell” at some point this season) from The Wire. Ummm, yes please.

2. Parks and Rec

A show that just keeps getting better as it ages. Just the first few minutes of Ron Swanson in this year’s season opener was funnier than most shows are in their entire existence. On with season four!

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

So far, Fat Mac has been just as hilarious as I’d hoped he would be. The first episode was better than any from last year, as was episode dos. Looks like Sunny is back up to their old standard. Hallelujah.

4. 30 Rock

Another season that’s sure to have me Lizzing (laughing till I whiz) and Jacking (jumping up and down in excitement until I yack) all year.

5. Castle

I know, I know. I just can’t help myself, I’m in love with the cast and characters of this show.

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the babble we think we mean.

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

– Orual, Till We Have Faces

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anansi boys. [fictionista]

If there had been any lingering doubt or uncertainty about Neil Gaiman being my favorite living author before, this book put all that to rest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Neil Gaiman writes the stories that I wish all stories could be. I don’t mean that I wish all stories were the same genre, or tone, or style, or whatever. I mean that I wish all stories could find the perfect balance of Gaiman’s stories, which are rich, beautiful, and full to the brim with subtext, with flashes and glimmers of something beyond the the wildly entertaining stories he tells.

Among other things, Gaiman’s works are about story, storytelling, humanity, the mystery of the divine, and our need for more than the mundane and the mediocre to be truly alive. Yet, he never uses simple one to one relationships that tip his hand. You can’t read Gaiman and say: Well, I’d have to say that Gaiman is definitely…  an athiest, or a Christian, or a new ager, or whatever. Instead, he uses myths and stories that humans have told for centuries as subtext, which leads toward a greater depth and beauty in his already superb writing.

No book does this more than Anansi Boys. A quasi-sequel to American Gods, this story follows in the wake of the death of Mr. Nancy, a character you’ll know if you’ve read American Gods. His estranged son, Fat Charlie Nancy, has no idea that his father is a god, until his father’s death leads him into the discovery that he has a brother he never knew about. In contacting his brother, Spider, Charlie’s world is turned upside down, and there are no guarantees that everyone is going to make it through the adventure alive.

Rooted in the oldest stories known to man, stories growing from Africa into tales that even exist in various forms in Americana, Anansi Boys is about the ways that we are shaped by the stories we tell and the stories we believe, by the songs we sing and the words we dream up, and by the risks we take the and things we love.

Also, it’s entirely possible that after reading this book, you’ll think twice the next time you’re about to kill a spider.

Really though, go read some Neil Gaiman as soon as you can.

 (artwork via@Jessbie)

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sound sticks.

I’m converting the last untouched room in our house. We’ve called it the office, but it has basically been a room sized book closet. The goal is to turn it into a space we actually want to inhabit and create in. In this process, the one splurge I allowed myself was a set of Harman/Kardon SoundSticks III. They came from Amazon today.

Saying they are the best part of my day so far is akin to saying the Grand Canyon is a really big hole in the ground. Still, they’re the best part of my day so far.

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five things: a prelude to the lists of 2011.

October will soon be upon us. I’ll write that one more time to be certain it sinks in: October will soon be upon us! That means the time is soon approaching when, if I have the time, I’ll be making an assortment of lists to celebrate my favorite things from 2011. The movie lists might be pretty lackluster, because I’ve got a 2 month chunk in my year where I  barely remember anything, and didn’t have time to watch movies. Sad.

Music never left me. In part because I can listen to it at work. Also, because it was the only thing I could do to recover much of the time. Here are five things I’m listening to these days that will be on some of the 2011’s lists.


1. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy ($3.99 on Amazon mp3)


2. AA Bondy – Believers ($7.99 on Amazon mp3)

Listen to the album here.


3. Beirut – The Rip Tide ($6.99 on Amazon mp3)


4. Liam Finn – Fomo  ($5.oo on Amazon mp3)


5. Feist and Lisa Hannigan

These albums aren’t out yet, but the first singles combined with previous track record give me the impression these will be on the lists as well.

Feist – How Come You Never Go There – Listen Here. – Buy Song Here.

Lisa Hannigan and Ray Lamontagne – Oh, Sleep – Listen Here. – Buy Song Here


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Neil Gaiman is my literary soulmate.

In the next few days I’m going to write a post about Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, the reading of which may have saved my fragile mind over the last few weeks. However, first I wanted to tell you about Neil Gaiman being my literary soulmate in yet another sphere.

While I was reading Anansi Boys, I made that playlist post several days ago. Jeff made that comment about trying to volunteer at a smaller radio station for a shift of some sort to give it a whirl from time to time. I thought, “That’s a great idea!”

Then, this great idea combined with my more delusional writer fantasies in which I get published, and become well-known enough to call up ole’ KEXP and say, “Hey, it’s local writer Scott Small. Can I be on your radio station sometime when a DJ is sick or something?” And they’d be like, “Hey, I heard about you, you sold like 15 copies of your book to the local public, and it wasn’t even your mom who bought all of them! Sure, you can have the graveyard shift next week when our normal DJ is in Fiji.” And I’d be like, “Score!” Then I would punch the sky and freeze as if that was the end of the episode, just like Kenneth Parcell at the end of the Night Court reunion.

It was soon afterward that I learned that from time to time, Neil Gaiman guest DJs on various Minneapolis radio stations. He is living my fantasy life in so many ways. Yup, be still my heart. I love that man.

I forget, did I ever tell you all about that quote I found from Gaiman? I probably did, but here it is anyway:

“There have been two times in my life where I know how God feels, and only two. The first was in 1988, writing Black Orchid, the first time I brought Batman on and had him say words that I’d written. I was like, ‘Batman is saying words that I’ve written. If the world ends tomorrow, I will still have made Batman talk. It probably won’t, and this comic will be published, and Batman will be in it, and he will have said stuff that I wrote.’ It was this incredible power. So, there was that, and then there was the first time I got to type the words, ‘Interior: TARDIS.'”

Anyway, if you know me at all, you probably understand how excited that would have made me. It was as if someone had said, “Hey, Scott, I want you to make up a quote for Neil Gaiman to say that would make you disproportionately happy.” The only other thing I would have added if I wrote it would have been beginning the quote with, “I was just telling my friend Scott the other day that…”

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