Morning Ed: Arts & Entertainment {2018.07.12.Th}

[AE1] At Splice Today, Tom DeVinti looks at the legacy of Hank Williams and Chris Beck at the top ten country songs about cities and towns.

[AE2] The Hindu Times has a story on Conan Doyle, Sherlock Homes, and colonialism.

[AE3] The problem with Game of Thrones, says Craig Bernthal, is that it is a history without redemption.

[AE4] Sean T Collins announces that the only good fandom left (and he means left) is Dune.

[AE5] The rare books collection community is largely a men’s club, but some women are doing well.

[AE6] ESPN may be losing subscribers, but they’re gaining money.

[AE7] It seems to me that Netflix’s audience doesn’t lend itself to classics, and in between Netflix and Filmstruck is Hulu, which is built more on nostalgia and less on original programming.

[AE8] Given that HBO is profitable and Netflix is sailing on a wing and a prayer, it’s odd that AT&T seems to want to turn HBO into Netflix.

[AE9] Of all the Hitchcock movies, Vertigo has among the most staying power. Nicholas Barber explains how it resonates in a world of catfishing and #MeToo.

[AE0] Question of the Day:


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Will Truman is the pseudonym of a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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64 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Arts & Entertainment {2018.07.12.Th}

  1. AE2: I’m more than a little underwhelmed by the evidence presented in the article. It just rummaged through Sherlock Holmes stories to find tenuous evidence that Doyle was just into colonialism and had stereotypes about Indians as other British people of the time. That isn’t a persuasive argument. We know what an author really thought because of this character from that story. All evidence to the contrary will be damned.

    AE3: I agree. Game of Thrones can get way too dark at times.

    AE4: Corporations have always been invested in fandom. The products consumed by fans came from corporations. Fandom might have been much more amateurish in the past but the business people are always involved. What has changed is that Americans corporations have decided to cultivate fandom and their money earning potential just as much as their Japanese counterparts did. During my college and law school years, it wasn’t unusual for American anime fans to be slightly to very jealous of Otaku culture and all its’ neat things. They had neat things because Japanese corporations mined them.

    AE7: YouTube seems to be the place where Hollywood studios put a lot of their older if not necessarily classic, sometimes for rent and sometimes quietly for free.

    AE0: One small solace of not having a girlfriend is that I’ve never had to watch anything excruciatingly bad as a price to be in a relationship.

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    • Three of the four Sherlock Holmes novels, the murders have exotic backstories. In A Study in Scarlet, it’s Mormons terrorizing a gentile family. In The Sign of the Four, it’s a group of Indians who plotted murder, theft, and revenge. In The Valley of Fear, it’s an American coal miners’ union.

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    • AE0: One benefit of having been married sixteen years, and each of us having our own devices, is that there is rarely is any expectation that we will sit down and watch a show together. We went to Incredibles 2 on our anniversary. I wouldn’t have gone to the theater to see it on my own, but I might have watched it on Netflix later, so it wasn’t any great sacrifice. And we know each other’s tastes well enough that neither of us would force the other to go see something they really hated.

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  2. AE6 As I understand it, ESPNs issue is not their subscription rates/revenue but that they are hanging their hat on live sports at the same time the right fees for those are skyrocketing past any possible ability to make a profit off them. They doomsayers are probably over stating it, but it is a tough math problem Disney is going to have to consider. The question is had “cord cutting” peaked and plateaued, or is this a blip.

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    • Also, the long-term prospects. I wrote about this two years ago. This ties in with cable cutting. Live sports was supposed to be the bulwark for the cable companies. This obviously only works with sports fans. The early cable cutters tended to be non-sports fans tired of paying for sports channels. With them gone, it makes sense that ESPN could charge even more, to viewers who actually want it. But how far can this go? Various outfits are now offering “skinny packages” without sports, but only for streaming. Presumably this is due to contractual obligations for traditional cable. So does traditional cable eventually be just for sports fans? My point two years ago is that the traditional relies on forcing non-sports fans to pay into the sports economy. That is becoming less and less viable. As for ESPN, et al., once the cable model of bringing in non-fan money collapses, why do the sports teams need ESPN, much less cable companies? They can sell streaming packages directly, cutting out the middlemen. MLB already does this, but with market restrictions. They will eventually come around on that.

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      • It’s not just the subscription fees though; a quick google indicates that ESPN’s revenue comes is 60/40 from subscription/advertising. The linkage is that live sports attracts advertisers unlike other subject matter or streaming alternatives.

        I think the Disney acquisition of FOX, particularly with its regional sports networks, will probably set the stage for a streaming platform that will probably replicate the various bundling features of cable, but eliminate the cable companies in the middle. That could be the end of cable, and mean people feel the need to subscribe to DisneyFlix to get non-sports entertainment will be wondering why they have to have ESPN to do so.

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        • It is interesting how advertising dollars have held up, even as subscriptions decline. This suggests that there is a roughly fixed amount of money that is going to go into advertising. Sports remain the best of a bad lot. I suspect that this is a short- to middle-term phenomenon.

          As for streaming bundles, this only works if the provider can convince people it is must-see. Right now, no one really manages this. I don’t think even Disney can. CBS tried to leverage the new Star Trek this way for its streaming package. My sense is that the main result was that a lot of people didn’t watch the show who might ordinarily have been expected to. It didn’t generate the buzz I would normally expect of a ST series. Personally, I have found serenity to be compatible with not watching it. I might subscribe for a month and binge it, but then again I might not.

          The essence of the cable model was that you, the subscriber, didn’t get to choose. There almost certainly was no competition for cable services, so if you want cable you had to take the sports, like them or not. The forced bundling in the current streaming environment only works if you absolutely have to keep up with the newest hottest thing. This is a large audience, but thankfully one I have aged out of.

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          • And that’s just the revenue to ESPN, cable companies pay a subscription in part to sell its own advertising.

            I don’t know what will happen with Disney, but I think Derek Thompson lays out one possibility of the Fox merger: Will Disney destroy the movie theater? I don’t agree with him about bundling; if anything in the past ESPN was subsidizing marginal non-sports programming in cable packages, but he does ask whether the merger will accelerate the demise of cable. For different reasons than him, I could see the merger accelerating the demise of cable.

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            • I meant to add earlier, the linked piece makes it seem like ESPN did not anticipate losing subscribers, but gaining revenue. About 15 years ago, ESPN dropped “minimum penetration thresholds” from cable contracts that prevented cable companies from offering broad packages without ESPN; in exchange, ESPN began charging higher rates.

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      • Of course, “cable cutters” generally don’t stop doing business with their local cable company — most cutters still buy internet access from them. The cable companies are taking advantage of the “TCP/IP is media neutral” thing I was an advocate for 25 years ago (can it really have been that long?), selling landline telephony and assorted security services. (Comcast is, IIRC, now the third-largest landline telephone company in the US measured by customers.) In my area, they are moving aggressively into business internet access — higher bit rates, much more symmetric up/down speeds, better repair times. There’s a substantial (and growing) video service market where they have no real competition — basic plus a Spanish-language bundle, no-contract, pay cash monthly at a storefront in or near your neighborhood.

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  3. Ae5 – I am not a member of the Cascade Booksellers Association, but I am trying to line up some work with them and more than a few dealers are women.

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  4. I thought AE4 was going to be more about how fandoms tend to eat themselves, how they often attack either “newbies” or people who aren’t of the “dominant” group in the fandom (whether women, people of color, or some other group that gets attacked). One reason I tend to avoid fandoms is that very reason – it seems that like the old “bad money chases out good” aphorism, bad behavior and unpleasant people chase out the kinder ones.

    Though I will say: i think corporations have more and more seen that fandom is something they can cash in on. I’m not saying that makes me want to become a contrarian and only be a fan of things that haven’t got popular yet, but yeah, fandom seems to be one of the more problematic fields of human endeavor these days. (Though what field of human endeavor ISN’T?)

    Tangential to AE7: it seems more and more the cable network channels are utterly interchangeable. My cable company proudly announced we would be getting WE and Sundance added in to our packages (for no extra charge, though I bet in a couple months we find out they have to raise our rates again). I was kind of excited about Sundance because I thought of it as an indie-movie channel.

    Every time I have put it on lately it seems to be either showing a re-run of Criminal Minds or one of the Law and Order clones. There WAS an ad for their streaming service which promoted some indie movies. So I guess that’s the new thing: you get the drekky cable channel as part of the package you pay for, but if you’re willing to pay extra for streaming, you can access the premium content that distinguishes the channel from everything else.

    My cable provider is slightly less awful than the satellite services so I suppose I won’t switch just yet (and I’m not ready to cut the cord and JUST stream; we have enough weird weather and weird crime in my area that I want access to local news casts, among other things) but it really does seem like the cable channels are all converging on the same dumb model.

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  5. AE4: He has about half a point here. It is a reasonable assertion that Dune is about as big a cultural phenomenon within the broad world of fandom that has not been thoroughly commercialized. Why this is likely has more to do with divided IP than anything else. Starting as it did with a book, with various pieces of IP spun off in different directions, any corporation trying to commercialize its fandom would be providing free marketing for some other corporation. Of course Harry Potter started out as a book, too, but it seems to have had a unified marketing plan from an early date. This wasn’t on the radar for a science fiction book in 1965.

    That being said, go down a notch or two and there are any number of non-commercialized fandoms. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books have a substantial following, for example. Google on ‘Vorkosigan fan art’ and you will find innumerable examples, most of them not at all good. Or go with ‘Vorkosigan fandom’ or, for the truly brave, ‘Vorkosigan fanfic’ and you will find all the impedimenta of modern fandom.

    Stopping at Dune fandom has the air of being a fan of a band with indie cred, but carefully selected to be well enough known that you don’t need to explain who they are.

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      • It’s a heck of an opportunity for a franchise. The story has 5 books (each approximately as long as a season of television would be), it’s got a bajillion characters (some of whom are gods who only show up for one really big scene and one really big speech), and some nice scenes that will make for obvious cornerstones of the season. (Garion’s fight with Asharak! Brill vs. Silk! Mandorallen vs. the lion! Zedar vs. Belgarath!)

        Each main character has at least two really good (scenery chewing!) speeches and there is a *LOT* of opportunity for, ahem, revealing outfits if you want to keep it PG-13 and *REALLY* revealing outfits of you want to say “eh, heck with that”.

        Fighting scenes! Kissing scenes! Speeches!

        They’re leaving money on the table by not doing it. It’s practically malpractice.

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        • The disadvantage is that your going to need to do something about the racial politics of the works. David Eddings specifically modeled the Angaraks after Western images over Muslims out to convert the world by sword and Eastern invaders. The good guys are White European expys and the bad guys read Asian/Arab. This isn’t going to come across well with modern politics being what they are even if it is arguably just a fantasy series.

          I’m kind of against an adaptation because they are going to want to give everybody English accents. I’ve read everybody sounding like an American accept Mandorallen. I especially do not want Belgarath to sound like a British person because it goes against the fact that he hates doing the stereotypical wizard thing.

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          • So change everything up. Make Errand a beautiful African-American child. Make Hettar and Silk Hispanic. Make Ce’Nedra Chinese (heck, make all of Tolnedra a proxy for China).

            Yeah, Mandorallen will have to be British and Barak will have to be Scottish…

            But you’re not married to anything for the other members of the party (or the gods themselves, for that matter).

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      • I think that David Eddings was explicitly against film adaptations because even though he was writing to entertain, he didn’t want that many changes to his books. He thought they would be rendered lighter than they were.

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        • Wait, what? He died?

          Huh. 9 years ago. Bummer.

          In any case, I’m pretty sure that he was still of the mindset that said that movies were for big budgets and big special effects and television was for longer story arcs where the most expensive thing was the actors’ salaries.

          This meant, in practice, that if you wanted a big budget, you had two hours to tell the story which meant that you had to cut out a *LOT* of stuff and, on top of that, you had to send the rubes home happy… which meant that you could only be dark in the first half of the movie.

          Game of Thrones, if it has done anything, has demonstrated that you can tell a long story with a dozen characters over the course of 50 hours *AND* have a pretty nice budget at the same time.

          We finally have set the groundwork to tell the story of Garion the way that it was meant to be told.

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          • See my response above. I love the story of Garion but there are certain political problems because of who the Angaraks are depicted and who the heroes are. I’m also against giving everybody but the Arends English accents. They should sound American, especially Belgarath.

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  6. AE7: While I would love to have more older stuff available for streaming on Netflix, the fact of the matter is that older films have traditionally been a niche interest and something that you had to actively seek out. The difference is that during the heyday of Netflix DVD rentals, renting a film from the 1930s and renting a new release were done the same way, and unlike Blockbuster the selection of the old stuff was pretty good. Nowadays the new release is obtained differently. So yes, some people who might have ordered an old film on a whim are unlikely to do so now. But this is pretty weak tea, really. If you want it, the older films are vastly more widely available then they were when I was in college.

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  7. I think this qualifies as entertainment news:

    Stormy Daniels was busted at a Columbus, Ohio strip club late Wednesday in what appears to be a sting by the police department’s vice squad.

    The arrest came in the midst of Daniels’ “Make America Horny Again” tour, and as her attorney continues his crusade against President Trump.
    […]
    Daniels was charged with three counts of illegally operating a sexually oriented business—employee knowingly touching any patron. According to Ohio state law, anyone who isn’t a family member is prohibited from touching a nude or semi-nude performer.

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  8. Netflix and Films:

    Something I have noticed among people in my age cohort and younger is that a decent number declare that they prefer television or movies for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they feel a longer time span help them get into the characters more. Other times they feel like movies are too much of a commitment.

    I wonder if Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have picked up on this are acting on it accordingly.

    I also think that the lack of classic movies on Netflix is partially because everyone wants their own streaming service these days.

    And as much as I dislike it, a lot of people just never get into the offerings of the Criterion Collection

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    • I read somewhere (the Atlantic, maybe the New Yorker…) something to the effect of younger people not liking sitcoms or episodic TV for much the same reason. That they needed the heavier story arc that allows bing watching.

      And I am with you on the Criterion Collection. I was bummed when Hulu got rid of it. Now if I want to watch something I am left with the schlock on Netflix.

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      • I guess I’m old. I can’t do the binge-watching thing; I get too antsy after one or two episodes. (Also it seems a lot of cable channels do long marathons of stuff).

        I wonder if part of the reason I mainly watch cartoons these days is (a) they are one of the few things where there’s still some degree of lightness and fluffiness (which I find I need) and (b) they tend to have shorter story arcs so you don’t have to commit to watching every episode in order so you keep up.

        that may also be why I like certain home-repair shows (“Stone House Revival” is a current favorite) – usually nothing too big goes wrong, and if you kind of drift in and drift out you don’t lose the thread too much.

        I tend to be doing other things when I have the tv on (cleaning house, sewing, whatever) so I don’t tend to give full attention to what I am watching a lot of the time.

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      • I prefer eating Bing Cherries to watching them.

        I think you are right re sitcoms except the edgier ones which get made for Netflix and Amazon. Network TV is the domain of old people.

        I maintain by the belief that there used to be more cultural benefit in being interested in foreign cinema and similar sophisticated or things meant for adults but this went away.

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        • I think you might be really over-estimating the number of people who were into foreign cinema during the mid-20th century. It was probably equivalent to the interest in independent movies during the late 1980s and early 1990s. There was some audience and that audience was affluent and noticeable to cause a buzz but for most Americans, independent or foreign movies were irrelevant to their lives. Taking about them to the wrong audience would induce eye rolling rather than wonder. You need evidence to advance this thesis.

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      • The current streamed series seem to found that the British formula of short seasons of ten to thirteen episodes at most combined with a coherent plot rather than something more episodic is a really winning combination.

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        • That really is a winning formula. Stranger Things used it, and we’ve mostly streamed British shows. We just finished Downton Abbey and have some others that we’ve watched or started watching. We tend to use ‘s strategy of binge-lite: an episode or two a night. We did watch all 19(!) seasons of Midsomer Murders but that was a bit different short seasons, long episodes that were episodic. It was a show we could watch once in a while and didn’t need to remember previous plots.

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    • TCM has their own streaming service but I’ve never really looked into it (as much as I like older movies and would love to be able to watch them on demand) because I don’t have the right dongle (snerk) for my tv and I kind of dislike watching for extended periods on my laptop screen.

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    • It’s easiest for me to compare to music.

      When one is young, one’s preferred radio stations play the music of the moment. As a young person presumably part of (or, at least, adjacent to) the moment, that music speaks to you in a way that “oldies” probably don’t.

      When you get a little older and if you get a little more into music, you’re probably going to want to explore Good Stuff that is close to the stuff you like the most now. Oh, you like poppy sopranos singling poppy melodies? Or do you like stuff with driving beats that get you pumped up? Or do you like guitar solos? Do you like crazy bassists doing crazy bass things?

      And you wander back and you discover stuff that was good from 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. Then you check out the people that inspired those artists. Then you check out the people that inspired them.

      Then you find yourself listening to the Talking Heads because, heck, why wouldn’t you end up there?

      Same for television or movies. There are a number of shows that are out there that are very much Of The Moment.

      10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, which ones will be worth revisiting?

      I suppose that any given movie is good to give a brief snapshot of the time in which it was made. A mini-time capsule. A movie that you can go back to in (the current year) and watch and have it still be very good? Those are something special.

      Everybody talks about Citizen Kane and The Godfather… but what movies from the last couple of years will people watch in 2050 for reasons other than “here’s a time capsule”? What television shows?

      The Sopranos was pretty good when it came out… but is it watchable today? The first couple of seasons, maybe… but there’s no reason to watch anything from Season 3 on… (maybe the first episode of Season 3 to see what they did with Olivia). But I could also see people saying “eh, there’s no reason to watch it. Watch (this other show) instead!” (Maybe Breaking Bad? Will that still be watchable in 2050?)

      I suppose it’s unfair to use “stands the test of time” as a measurement. I can’t think of a better one, though.

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        • I’m always a fan of seeing what happened last time.

          What stuff from the 40’s do we still watch today? Abbott and Costello, maybe? Three Stooges, maybe? Warner Brothers cartoons, maybe? Anything else?

          I admit, I haven’t watched Abbott and Costello for decades. I still watch the Three Stooges from time to time. I still watch Warner Brothers cartoons from time to time. But all of the other things that someone might list… do I watch them or do I just know about them?

          Like, I tried to come up with stuff from the 50’s and my first thought was “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” (well, actually, it was “The Life And Times Of Hobie Gillis” but you know how memory works) and I realized that I haven’t seen one of those shows for 20 years. It’s just something that I know about. Not something that I actually watch.

          What do we actually *WATCH*? What’s the furthest back show that we can say still enjoys a lot of people watching it pretty regularly? Not just a “oh, I know about it” the way that we know about important things that were of the moment to generations prior, but actually sit down and watch today?

          Firefly? That takes us back to… what? 2002? What’s one prior to that? What is the earliest show that you know of that people sit down and say “I’m going to watch this!” or press into your hands and say “You need to watch this!”

          Movies are a bit easier to go back a bit farther. Everybody has seen Star Wars a million times (1977). What’s earlier than that, though? How much more highbrow (for lack of a better word) do you have to go to go back to Citizen Kane? (Though, granted, at that point you can throw Casablanca on there, and most of Hitchcock’s movies, and half of Capra’s stuff, and On the Waterfront and most of the stuff on the “Best Films” list.)

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          • Two other thoughts –

            I’m not confident that the best rises to the top. The movies of our era that stand the test of time may be of lower quality than the forgotten ones, even by the standards of 50 years from now.

            Music doesn’t follow the same pattern as movies and TV. Jefferson Starship songs age differently than Jefferson Starship fashion. “Jane” may not seem like a masterpiece in 100 years, but it holds up today.

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          • TV:

            I can go back farther than 2002, in that people still watch the first season of Friends (1994). They watch it a lot. They sing the theme song and discuss episodes of it with their (sigh) friends. That might be cheating, b/c it didn’t end until 2004, but then again maybe not.

            Or in other words, you may not want to know what people still watch.

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            • Oh, and my student workers mostly seem to have seen and love Facts of Life and Designing Women, but they are not typical.

              Golden Girls is another one that gets a lot of love and rewatches from all and sundry, and it ran 1985-1992… I’ll plant my still-watched-TV flag there, I guess.

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                • I think “normies” as a term is being captured by 4chan usage. and plenty of *those* kind of normies also watch star trek.

                  Good point, though – I just quibble with your terminology. “Regular People” and “Fans”, perhaps.

                  OTOH I think if Firefly counts as it did in your original setpoint, then star trek would definitely count. And people still watch the original series.

                  That puts us back to the 60s/70s.

                  When was the original Doctor Who?? *looks*

                  OK, Star Trek was 66-69. Doctor Who was 63.

                  That puts us at 1963. Considering my mom’s family still didn’t own a TV set in 1963 (rural eastern Canada), 1963 is pretty good.

                  Anybody got a solid earlier contender?

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              • (whispers) “Murder, She Wrote”

                though part of that may be it reminds me of a happier, more care-free time in my life….esp. when I lived in the dorm and had a group of friends who ALSO liked the show (and liked it unironically*) and we’d get together on Sunday nights to watch it.

                (*I just can’t get into the “I like it, but ironically” thing because that seems a step away from hate-watching, and I don’t have time for that)

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                • I also have a very strong unironic affection for that show. However, I’m not sure many people still watch it, which is what I was going for. Would love to ask Netflix how it was doing before they yanked it.

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          • From the 1940s?

            The Philadelphia Stoey, Citizen Kane, The Best Years of Our Lives, Suspicion, Notorious, Benefit of a Doubt, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, Casablanca, Adam’s Rib, and many more

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            • Here’s a tip for a select few folks: We have a collection of probably 300 or so DVDs (mostly favorites, but a few nostalgic gotta-haves and a couple of “well, they are historic”). Both of us are movie fans. But they really just sat in the library until femrex said: “Here’s the deal. We are watching them alphabetically. When you just pick per mood, you watch very few. We’re gonna start at “Abyss” and end at “Zulu.” And we did. It was GREAT! Often, as we slipped the DVD into the machine it was, “Cripes, am I really in the mood for _______?” But 99% of the time, the reason that the DVD was in the collection was immediately apparent and we had a great movie night. Took us a 3 – 4 years to get through the collection, but I heartily recommend revisiting your collection in way (alphabetically) that doesn’t permit fudging.

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          • I don’t know if this counts, but I have been watching with immense, and mostly unironic, enjoyment the old What’s My Line show, which started in 1950. An astonishing number of episodes are available on YouTube. Pro tip: search for the ones with Debbie Reynolds as the mystery guest. She was figgin’ hysterical!

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  9. AE3: I think it’s a little premature to decide what the theme of Game of Thrones is since it hasn’t been finished yet. My own reading on it is that it’s a deeply moralistic work, but one that tells its moral lessons in negative space. That said, I really have no idea how it’s going to end and that could alter my interpretation a lot.

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