It would have been around 1975 that I read Harlen Ellison’s Deathbird Stories. Is his name an anagram? (Hellion learns. Hell's neon liar. On leaner hills.) I’ve remembered the book all these years, as superb. Some time ago I got a copy, and I’ve been reading it again. It’s not that I’m disappointed. But I can see Ellison in the writing, I can see the writing, and it is distracting. Like a brilliant adolescent wrote it. Which worked brilliantly, when I was an adolescent. The man is in love with words. Images, impression, impact. He knows his craft. He wrote some of the best original Star Trek episodes. I don’t know what it is, what’s lacking. I can’t say there’s a monotony of tone, but it has something to do with depth. He digs only in one direction?
Modern Family, the sitcom, is in reruns. I’d never seen it. It had been mentioned as something like Arrested Development, which is stellar. But MF is second rate. I used that term a while back in a text. I think it comes off as harsher than I mean. First rate is, oh, say, Shakespeare, and Chandler, and Arrested Development. Second rate is skilled, and professional, but not worth looking at a second time. There are after all five ratings, so second rate is a B. Pretty good. The MF writing is funny. Rigidly formulaic but I laugh a few times in each of the episodes I’ve seen. That’s rare. And I suppose I have to admit that Ed O’Neil redeems himself with this -- I hadn’t thought it possible, given MWC -- I will not even say the name. The hot Columbian wife is really gifted -- it would be so easy to get that part wrong. The fat son is pretty awful -- good for the Disney Channel, but he telegraphs and uses his hands amateurishly and isn’t smart enough to play the smart kid he’s playing. It’s distracting. The kids are just stickfigures, manufactured by the “created by” guys -- a dim-bulb slut, a wisecracking egghead, and a crazy and formless little brother -- we’ve seen them in a hundred previous iterations. The gays are not bad, but watered down for middle America -- no hint at all of sex, between them. The parents have lots of sex. The gays have a few pecking kisses of vanilla affection. FYI: gays like sodomy and sucking each other’s dicks. Now, the dick-sucking I can understand, although it is an idea that takes some getting used to. That’s the point though, of the MF gays. Get us used to it. But without any gay sex at all, it’s just a sell-out. Superficial. The universe is full of wormholes; until you look closely, a thing can seem first-rate.
I have discussions every now and again about writing. I’m always urging for authenticity -- how people really talk. Obviously there is art involved, we eliminate the ums and ahs, and try to be worth hearing, but fake is not funny.
George Bernard Shaw wrote a letter to Tolstoy -- the difference between their genius is demonstrated by the fact that Shaw needs to be identified the more completely -- in which he says, “To me God does not yet exist…” and he blathers on about how Evolution is trying to create such a thing. “The current theory that God already exists in perfection involves the belief that God deliberately created something lower than Himself when He might just as easily have created something equally perfect. That is a horrible belief...” Indeed. It’s also a fictitious belief. At no time has this been “the current theory.” God cannot create himself. No serious theologian of a Western faith has proposed such a thing. How could Shaw be so wrong? Because he got caught up in his own ideas and words, and because he was so used to impressing people and being complimented that he failed to develop a capacity for self-examination. It’s a form of insanity. Self confidence is better than self doubt, when it comes to producing commercial entertainments. But comedians should stick to trying to be funny.
For almost a year now I’ve had constant pain. Sometimes literally crippling. It’s not a disc, and certainly not plantar fasciitis. Not sports medicine, not a general practitioner, not a chiropractor. It’s a disease -- debilitating pain at but not in various joints. Not arthritis or the like -- tendons or bursa or something. I’ve taken excellent care of myself, my whole life, for exactly this reason. I’ve always known that if I ever got a big problem, I wouldn’t be responsible about it. It really digs deeply into my crazy place. I could very well just give up. So I’m worried about myself. I am profoundly self destructive.
It's irksome. So many bad choices, and their accrued consequences. I needed a wife, to ground and motive and encourage me. Instead I read. What a waste.