Thursday, December 28, 2006

Orhan Pamuk

It looks like this ish of The New Yorker is a keeper. This (his Nobel lecture) is the first thing I've read by Orhan Pamuk, and it has me curious to read more. (h/t to DV)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes has a reputation for being unduly "cool" (due chiefly, I think, to fiction like Flaubert's Parrot). Even Salman Rushdie (no slouch among the ironically detached) had to admit his favourite portion of A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters was the half-chapter essay. I'm fond of Barnes's fiction and his essays. I think of them as the products of a gifted man working diligently to tease apart The Big Problems. And I'm grateful to anyone who takes a sincere crack at the task.

Don't miss this essay in The New Yorker.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Boxing Day Tidy

One of the great delights I've had as an author has been selling copies of my book to members of my church. If you're coming to this site for the first time, my "Greatest Hits" are linked to on the sidebar under "Another Shot of Whisky". Now that I'm paying attention, I can see I haven't added anything to it in a while (although "I'm listing" is current). I've got some faves from the past year, too.

Here's a piece on "The Book Store Lady", an old friend I remember fondly.

Anybody remember that guy who wrote an autobiography that turned out to be a load of crap? Anybody recall Michael Chabon coming dangerously close to pulling the same stunt?

Apparently Playboy, or Hef, celebrated some sort of milestone this last year. My thoughts about it all are here.

My Ode To The Home Stereo, and a follow-up (sniff). On a tangential note, it looks like we survived The Day of the Beast.

Some thoughts on this mortal coil as well as vocation, identity & heredity.

And no list would be complete without a link to my favourite band.

Merry Boxing Day!

Friday, December 22, 2006

New Archie = New Coke?

Every five years or so I'll go ahead and make the purchase. I'll reach past all those candy bars and breath mints, I'll grab the Betty & Veronica Double Digest, and I'll add it to the pile of groceries. I suspect it's weirdos like me who are keeping the Archie empire alive. You could almost imagine some suit at Archie clicking through a powerpoint: "If enough adults make enough ironic purchases every five years or so, our projected revenues should total..."

A dismal future, to be sure. So why not tweak the brand? Play a bit with the storyline, mess with the look, try to pull in a younger audience? What is there to lose?

Okay, this "Wal-Mart Discount Coloring Book" aesthetic wasn't quite what I had in mind. The Dan DeCarlo years at Archie were the empire's aesthetic zenith, and influenced a number of 80's New Wave artists, including my personal faves, Los Bros Hernandos. I daresay a score or more of current comic book artists would love to do some Archie mash-ups. Hey, what's this Manga I keep hearing about? I thought it performed some pleasant mischief on Star Trek -- anyone up for Anime Archie?

As usual, where paid artists fear to tread, internet pranksters happily dive in. I'd say this cat's got the right idea. And I'm always keen on a Frank Miller send-up.

Links from Drawn!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

WP's Internet Tootjes (Christmas Goodie Bag)

My brain is rather scattered this Christmas, so here are a few miscellaneous links I've enjoyed, plus one unsavoury box of CrackerJack:

So you consider yourself a rock critic in the tradition of the great Lester Bangs? Well, bollocks to you, chump, 'cos you ain't. Here's why.

Aren't you glad you're not J.K. Rowling? This summer our family listened to the first two Harry Potter books in their entirety while we were on the road. I thought they were both terrifically entertaining, and that Rowling was a novelist of uncommon care and discipline. She knows exactly where she's going with this story, a refreshing anathema in this day of "I sit back and let the characters write the novel." So back off, King and Irving: let the lady get some sleep!

Cracker Jack Alert: The Lord appears before Frank Schaeffer, and says, "Ya ****ing ****!! Ya just don't ****ing git it, do ya? **** ****ing ****, but you are one sorry sack of ****!! Drop and gimme 20 before I **** your **** with a ****er and ... (etc., ad nauseum)." Need to recover from that last link? Try this.

Allow me to extend to my friends and family in Alberta the most welcome Christmas present I could possibly offer -- an admission: I'm actually enjoying Stephen Harper as PM. I'm not at all sure I could say the same if he were to ever gain a majority, but as minority leader he's quite refreshing. Quick political analysis: if Michael Ignatieff had won the Liberal leadership, it would have been irrefutable proof that God is on the side of Harper's Tories. "Merry Christmas, Stephen! Here's your majority!! Ho, ho, ho!!!" The way things are, at least I can say my gimpy "What do I believe in?" faith is still standing.

And finally, courtesy of Jim's meme, here's my desk:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Baked Ham

Never done one of these before.

Any tips you'd care to share?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Big Night, Part 2

Here's a shot of me on-stage:

No wait, that's Jack. Here we go...

Hmm. Looks like an acting class or two might just loosen up my body language a touch. Either that or a gut-full of hooch and methamphetamines. Or not (see below).

Taking "Buk" With a Pinch of Salt -- or Grace

Some 12 years ago, I submitted my first and only “professional” book review for a trade magazine. I doubt the author in question ever caught wind of it, but I was quietly positive. I was given $50 for the privilege, and allowed to keep the galley proofs. A week later, I got a phone call from my editor. The author had committed suicide, and for some obscure legal reason the publisher was asking for all the proofs to be returned.

This depressing little scene comes to mind after reading Michael Blowhard's appreciative appraisal of Charles Bukowski. “If Bukowski's short stories were given to English 101 classes to read, many more boys would become interested in literature than generally do,” says MB, and I wholeheartedly agree. Any young punk with an abundance of testosterone and a perceived shortage of luck will find “Buk's” poetry and prose immediately infectious. And as a happy consumer of said poetry and prose, I don't mind admitting it's possible Bukowski's spirit flits through and touches down in some of my own writing, as well.

HOWEVER ... I can't say I'm too broken up over the possible shortage of young dudes infected by the Bukowski lit-bug, because the young guy I almost reviewed was an outstanding example of someone who'd been a touch too infected. Prior to him, I'd befriended two others. All three of these guys (at different times) took out rooms in a hotel located within beer-can-tossing-range of the Scott Mission on Spadina Ave. They collected a sheaf of impressive “bovver boy” stories. And they eventually relocated from their seedy Spadina digs to the Queen Street Mental Ward, where they struggled to recover from alcohol induced depression.

Young guys and writin' – where does indulgence end and wisdom begin? If there is a dividing line, it's a difficult one to discern. But there is no mistaking a pup who's drowning in the distant end of the “wisdom” side. He's usually trembling in a chair and quoting Nietzsche to the nearest Candy-Striper.

I've been on the receiving end of these quotation sessions. They're quite an ordeal, especially when you care about the person in torment. When pushed, I might toss back a few quotes of my own (Dostoyevsky, for instance, understands where they're coming from), but mostly the best you can do is sit and nod, and silently hope your friend will regain an even keel and return to a more benign point of view.

Having christened myself after an alcoholic beverage, I certainly wouldn't forbid a feisty young lad from reading Bukowski – or Nietzsche, or Ayn Rand or any other chest-thumping yahoo with a flair for words. But I've also grasped for “praedjer”, or “preacher”, so I say go on and read Buk, but make it a point to seek out and read alternative writers with a capacity for the generous invitation.

When I was a pup, I was fortunate to be steered (by women) toward women writers with just such a gift: Madeleine L'Engle and Carol Shields in my early years; later it was Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg; more recently it's been Annie Dillard and (I'm going male, now, but he's significant and wholly unique among male writers) Czesław Miłosz.

I think these writers have one thing in common: they assert that the greatest risk a human being can take is committing to Love. You commit to it, you cultivate it, you even cast some of it upon the waters and hope for the best. When it returns to you, it will almost certainly take a form you never expected. If you're observant, you might just recognize it when it finally knocks on your door – but odds are you won't. Most of us don't even recognize the love in ourselves. But Love is there, regardless.

In the remote chance that some young punk with attitude could give a shit what I think, here's my nickel's worth of advice: be reckless on the page, but don't be afraid to invest a little care in your life.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Big Night

Many years ago (half a lifetime, in fact), I worked for a Mennonite bi-weekly. Since I was low guy on the totem pole, one of my duties was editing first-hand reports of church functions. Every single one of these reports concluded with the words, "A good time was had by all." Drove me bonkers, those words did.

Here's a shot of Friday's festivities. This is the Nick Adams contingent, and their lovely spouses (including mine, getting the laser-focussing treatment):

And here's another shot of my lovely wife, entertaining the troops. Also pictured is the back of Roar's head.

So far the only pictures I possess of that evening are the ones I had the presence of mind to take. I shall Flikr the others and post a link, once they come into my possession.

Oh yeah: A Good Time Was Had By All.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cleared for Lift-Off

Today is the official launch of Youthful Desires: I launch the book at my place of employment, Cafe Rhythm & Books in Cannington, Ontario, at 8:00 tonight.

Anyone who sticks close to my side is likely to get a splash of Lagavulan (16) in their proffered cup. I'll try to post a few pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Child's Christmas In Eaton's

I loved Eaton's when I was a kid. Their Christmas Catalogue was like an artifact from an untouchable civilization, filled with details that seemed at once accessible and beyond reach. Where could we find this happy family, and their dark, romantic home?

In 1975, my father would drive the family to Winnipeg, park the Impala in the Parkade, then ask me the time. If my watch was running, I was allowed to head for the third floor, where the books were. Eaton's had an impressive science-fiction shelf -- I could burn over an hour just perusing the tawdry covers, nevermind the contents. Meanwhile, my father was dragged by my younger brother and sister through every aisle of toys on fourth, while my mother spent some much needed alone-time, browsing for necessities. We'd meet an hour later at the Parkade exit.

All our family pets came from Eaton's. In 1977 we were given a pair of hermit crabs, purchased on the fourth floor. I once bought a gerbil there that lasted less than a week. We buried the blighter in our garden, then drove to the city and told them our tale of woe. We were refunded the full three dollars, thanks to their unheard-of refund policy. My parents still have the Matchbox collector-case I purchased with the dead gerbil money.

My mother introduced us to the pleasures of the seventh floor. Eaton's reserved their penultimate floor for damaged furniture and remaindered goods (their eighth floor -- accessible by stairs only -- was reserved for the truly weird stuff: a surplus of pet rocks, and the like). At Christmas, they erected a bunch of plywood and fibreglass sets depicting common fairytales, each animated by some sort of electrical motor and pulley system. Whoever created these sets paid just enough attention to detail to keep a kid mesmerized -- again, we were looking at something that was clearly possible, but just beyond our own capacity to execute.

Darth Vader made a guest appearance at Eaton's in 1978. My mother took me out of school (I met my grade 8 teacher some years later, and he still recalled her note: "I'm kidnapping my son for the day"), and drove me out to see this costumed dude. I joined a queue of two dozen or so lads like myself. Then someone started the music, and out came Vader, striding malevolently between home furnishings and kitchen ware, and wheezing mightily in order to be heard through his plastic mask.

I got his autograph.

Ten years later, I put on a shirt and tie and worked at a photofinishing joint in the mall attached to Eaton's. I found a new excuse to visit the seventh floor: the elevator girls. Eaton's elevators weren't the modern, heat-sensitive button type: these required a lovely girl to sit on a tall stool, and politely ask everyone to step to the back. Then she pushed or pulled a lever, and up (or down) went the elevator.

There was one girl in particular who caught my eye: a blond Ukranian of Dan DeCarlo proportions. She also had that DeCarlo smirk, and the heavily-lidded eyes that suggested an incomprehensible worldliness. By this time seventh floor had been converted to sporting goods; my sock drawer had an abundance of white athletic tube socks that year.

Nothing came of my friendly chit-chat with her, except for an extended conversation the night I bumped into her at a local watering hole. I learned three things that night: 1) it's possible to mistake sheer boredom for aloof sophistication; 2) she didn't remember my name because there were better dressed fellas from the financial district who made a similar habit of visiting the seventh floor; 3) her French boyfriend was willing and altogether capable of reducing me to a smear of foie gras, and there he was now, coming in from the parking lot -- with his three muscular, French buddies.

There were other Eaton's pleasures. I dropped coin on my first cologne at Eaton's. I bought some swanky neck-ties there, too. A girlfriend gave me one of my nicest sweaters -- purchased from the first floor, no less. Then there was the basement, where all the reduced-reduced priced goodies were allocated. In the middle of all these single shoes and un-bagged underwear sets was a Malt Stop. This was a common gathering place for the University crowd (the U of W was just up the street). One winter morning I was having coffee with a friend, when we spotted a fur-clad woman approaching the Malt Stop. We recognized her as the mother of one of our wealthier classmates -- a woman of cultivated tastes. She ordered the nacho chips, with jalapenos and cheese sauce.

I was sad when Eaton's finally tanked. I was still young enough to treat the place like a Destination: a store where I bought what Christmas presents I could, before calling it a day. And it seemed to me that my classmate's mother had the last word on what was so wonderful about that place: you could be surrounded by a million things you might never be able to afford (including the elevator girls), but anyone could put down a fiver and get the nachos and cheese.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

O Christmas Meme, O Christmas Meme

Picked this up at Andrew's Place (some of you who read my other (belated) blog will recognize a few answers):

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? -- I'll have just a splash of Egg Nog with my bourbon, please.

Does Santa wrap presents, or just stick them under the tree? They're wrapped.

Coloured lights on tree, or white? White.

Do you hang mistletoe?
This house holds three gorgeous ladies; since I don't lack for kisses, and I'm stingy about others wedging in on Papa Dawg, the answer is NO!

When do you put your decorations up? The day of the local Santa Claus Parade, when the Lions Club starts selling trees.

What is your favourite holiday dish? *Pfft!* Pad Thai, of course!!

What is your favourite holiday memory as a child? The Christmas Eve service at church, which was typically dominated by cutesy kiddie fare. Our family passed out the gifts that morning (a trait common to most of my friends' families, too), so we were more or less played out and in a good mood by evening. We sang our songs, recited our Bible verses, then received enormous goodie bags ("tootjes" in plautdietsch) from our Sunday School teachers. The one time of the year I ate Cracker Jack.

When did you learn the truth about Santa?
Age three. My parents said it was a good story that other families liked to tell, and encouraged me to pretend, but to refrain from pissing in other punch bowls. (If anyone wants me to recycle my "Ag-Claus-tic" anecdote, just give me a nudge.)

Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve? A few. We get up early on Christmas morning. Heck, we get up early every morning...

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? I don't. I stay as far away from the action as possible.

Snow: love it, or hate it? Since we got snow tires, love it.

Can you ice skate? Helloooo! Canucklehead typing -- and skating, thank you very much!

Can you remember your favourite gift? I liked 'em all, but the one that stands out is an early Lego Lunar Landing kit. Very blocky, pre-Star Wars construction. Loved it.

What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Paying attention to family, and living in the hope of something larger. And remembering that the people Christ called his brothers and sisters were a devilishly "diverse" bunch.

What is your favourite holiday tradition?
My mother pulls out all the stops and puts on an incredible chocolate fondue.

What tops your tree? An angel.

Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? So long as kids are involved, giving.

What is your favourite Christmas song?
This year it is the mournful Civil War-era hymn I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Candy canes? By now I dislike them almost as much as I dislike Cracker Jack, which I consider the poor cousin to ...

My favourite Holiday Dessert: PoppyCock Here's how you make it:

1 cup pecan halves
1 cup almonds
8 (plus) cups popped popcorn
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cream tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Toast the nuts, pop the corn. Melt the sugar, butter, syrup, cream of tartar -- bring to a hard boil. Remove from the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla, then pour it over the popcorn and nuts. Press the mess into cookie sheets, and let it cool. Or just eat it hot -- whatever you can endure.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Isn't there a better name for this?

As a parent, I've been slow to declare a prohibition on toys of just about any stripe. When I was a kid, the only toy denied me was the G.I. Joe "action figure" -- because our family was Mennonite (i.e., pacifist) and G.I. Joe was, you know, General Infantry (although whose army allows their infantrymen to look like this? No matter: I've let go of all the bitterness and disappointment. Really, I have).

Having said that, my wife and I adamantly refuse to buy, or allow our daughters to buy, Bratz. Honestly, why didn't the marketers just cut to the chase and call their demon-spawn Slutz? Do the guys who dream these things up even have daughters? Or did they sacrifice them as babies before a glittering Maserati?

Anyhow, it's nice to know I'm not alone in my abhorrence. (h/t to Michael Blowhard)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Scary Mary" Poppins

I laughed, but the hairs on the back of my neck actually stood up the first time I saw this "trailer" for "Scary Mary" Poppins:

h/t to BoingBoing.

Maximizing Bond

I finally got to take my wife to the new James Bond. We had a hoot -- the thrill factor has indeed returned to the franchise. I have to wonder who's responsible for the difference in pacing and tone, since this is (apparently) the same director who gave us Goldeneye.

As we drove home, I commented that this was the first Bond movie in which the audience got to see a great deal more of Bond's bod than they did either of the Bond Girls'. "You say that like that's a bad thing," said my wife. Ahem. Yes, well ... where did I put those 12 lb dumbbells?

I'm not sure which of the New Yorker critics made the analogy, but he said the movie was all protein, no carbs -- and he said it like it was a good thing. If we can just ignore the mechanics of the movie, which were more proficient and engaging than they'd been for the last score of Bonds, and focus on what the Bond franchise excels at -- the superficial -- I think this Buff Bond is telling. He still wears tailored suits, but they're the flashy Italian kind, not the stolid lines from Saville Row. And he's more likely to wear a close-fitting short-sleeved shirt or even (*gasp*) a T-shirt than he is his trademark dinner jacket and bow tie.

Early in the movie, when a tubby, Hawaiian-shirted tourist mistakes Bond for the hotel valet and tosses him the keys to his car, Bond cheerfully hops to, and rams the tourist's Rover into a line of freshly alarmed cars. And it struck me: this is the Maxim Bond. I don't know if Maxim is still the "premiere men's magazine" it was five or six years ago. My sense is its heyday has come and gone, which would make its former audience the ideal Bond demographic -- young guys who don't want to be mistaken for the valet.

Expensive "casual" clothing, gadgets you can purchase at the mall (cell phones figure prominently in this movie), Bond girls who are either married and available for the night, or married to their jobs and available for a vacation only ... the flash in this movie is almost within grasp for the post-Maxim reader. If you're a man of a certain age, you don't really attend a Bond movie to see the girls -- you can get "better" on the internet. You attend to put yourself in his shoes for an hour or two, and consider for a moment what you could take from the movie to add to your own bachelor pad, to make you feel sexy and dangerous. Unlike the last few Bonds, this movie gets the surface right.

And with that observation, I shall stop -- lest I make that sound like a bad thing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Youthful Desires and the Cost of an Autograph

I've received a few requests for autographed copies of Youthful Desires -- a flattering thrill for Yours Truly! ("Elvis remains in the building, his head too fat to get through the door!") Thank you, mes amis.

There are two ways this can be done:

Option A.: The Book, legibly autographed on page v., and mailed out to you.

Option B.: a bookplate (5 X 10 cm.), custom designed by Jessica D'Eall and personally signed by Yours Truly. It looks something like this:

Thanks to the current rate of exchange, Option A. costs you $25 -- American dollars, if you reside in the US of A, and Canadian dollars if you reside in Canada (international orders, please e-mail me for specifics).

But Option B. is the real bar-GOON: if you've already purchased a copy through Lulu, I will happily mail you the autographed bookplate free-of-charge. (Option A. customers get the bookplate thrown in. If you don't want that blank, let me know.)

Send me an e-mail, and we can exchange snail-mail particulars.

De-Lurking Myself

I seem to have missed "De-Lurking Week", but I appreciate the concept so I'll oblige and play catch-up.

First of all, here's Terry Teachout's belated review of The Big Lebowski -- a Coen Brothers' phenomenon (for the most part, they tend not to make just plain movies). I don't qualify as a Teachout "lurker", because the man is on my sidebar of links, and I on his -- civil acknowledgement all the way around. But I frequently consider commenting on his material, only to lose the urge once my fingers start typing. Today that ends. I have to disagree with Mr. Teachout's final word on the Coens'; their films may frequently portray a nihilistic point of view, but their ever expanding ouevre contains enough contras and variety to indicate another, larger aesthetic (and world view). Good luck, though, trying to nail it down on their behalf. On that point, I'll simply parrot The Dude: "That must be exhausting."

In my recent kvetching about the state of television, I kept looking for an opening to introduce Denis McGrath's blog, Dead Things On Sticks (h/t to Scott). McGrath isn't just "in the biz", he's writing for Canadian television, which gives him quite a unique perspective on the whole unruly shebang. He's got worthy things to say about non-Canucklehead entertainment issues, too: here he makes a pointed distinction between Mel Gibson and Michael Richards. And here he is, demonstrating more patience than I have, and expounding on When Good Series Go Bad. If this kindles your curiosity, here's his list of his recent favourite posts. If I were a producer, I'd greenlight this guy and give his series a Deadwood-budget-times-two. Then I'd kill it young.

I occasionally hint at my capacity to brood over, if not actually commit to Deep Thoughts. To that end, when I was an earnest young Mennonite I frequently took a hearty stab at "dialoging" with people from "other faith perspectives" (every once in a while my gammy leg gives out, and I find myself falling into that temptation yet again). I'd like to think I'm learning to listen. But mostly I'm just lurking. This cat is more avowedly Anabaptist than I am -- and he's British! He's also unorthodox (a trait I'm typically drawn to) and a practitioner of Aikido. I trained in Aikido for one brief, ineffective year and promptly quit after a Russian black belt dropped me on my noggin. The fault was entirely my own. The first thing you learn in Aikido is how to fall. Then you learn it again and again and again. I decided I didn't want to learn with my head anymore, and took up Tai Chi instead (FWIW, neither of these "martial arts" is likely to be effective in hand-to-hand combat -- unless you're Russian).

And finally, a Prajer link to the blog of Mary Scriver -- PrairieMary -- is long overdue. I hardly know where to begin the recommendations: this entry appealed to me (contains the word "dialogic"!); anything she has to say about the Blackfoot (sorry, PM, but I'm north of the 49th) should be listened to -- start here; and I am of course drawn to her Manitoba musings. This woman pretty much embodies my ideal of a writer: her craft continually demonstrates the virtues of focus, patience, discipline ... and irreverence. A very winning package, believe me. Or don't: see it for yourself. Now. GO!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Prajer Production Mantra: Kill 'em Young

A continuation of my thoughts re: Battlestar Galactica, etc.

My grade nine teacher's singular rule for essays was, "Essays should be like a woman's skirt: short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the subject." (The year was 1979, for those of you keeping track.) As a lad who, um, appreciated the "subject matter," you can believe I took his advice deeply to heart, and didn't always meet the "coverage" requirement.

I am still talking about essays, here.

I was more attentive as a university undergrad, but my proudest day was when a prof returned an essay with the comment, "This is a well-written essay that covers all the necessary points. Still, it comes in at 200 words less than the minimum requested." BOO-yah!!

Unfortunately, if I'd padded that sucker with 200 more words, she'd have given me an A+, instead of a mean A. Am I crazy to think I did that woman a favour by cutting down on her marking time? I should have been awarded an A++ for that little feat, but she clearly had a different standard in mind.

It seems to me most television viewers hanker for that extra 200 (plus) words, so we get behemoth franchises like M*A*S*H, post-Shatner Star Trek, The Simpsons and West Wing, to pull just a few examples from recent memory. There is unquestionable entertainment value to be gleaned from long-running programs: consider the soaps, or (closer to my heart) comic books. DC and Marvel usually coax a few dollars from my wallet every year with a short storyline that takes an acceptable risk. But the operative words in that last sentence are "few" and "short" (and maybe "acceptable").

M*A*S*H is the example that today's television writers love to kick around. The Ivy League writers for The Simpsons and The Family Guy have made it the butt of their derision, but the deeper truth is these jokers silently hope their franchise will "suffer" the exact same fate. In fact, The Simpsons is already there; it's outlasted M*A*S*H and it's at a point where its cultural relevance can be summed up by one word: "D'oh!"

The first four seasons of The Simpsons, though, were pure magic. Actually, the first two or three seasons of M*A*S*H were pretty special, too. Prior to 9/11, The West Wing was frequently fun to watch, though nowhere near as startling and delightful as its predecessor Sports Night had been. Sports Night was phenomenal, juggling dicey issues like racism, politics and professional compromise, adolescence and adulthood, responsibility vs. a sense of play. Then it began to look like it might devolve into a Friends-type "Who's dating whom?" fest ... and they killed it!! BOO-yah!!!

I whiled away many a pleasant hour on the post-Shatner Star Treks, but I don't waste my time seeking out the re-runs. Just try to wrestle the remote from me, though, if I've tripped across City On The Edge of Forever, Spock's Brain, or any of the episodes from The Original Series. TOS: four seasons ... and they killed it!

Someone once advised, "Leave an audience wanting more." But I think when it comes to television, the better maxim is, "Kill 'em young." Everybody wants more, all the time -- that's just the pre-condition of North American it's a free market and I want it NOW life. A little withholding of gratification goes an incredible distance in this atmosphere. We don't need the next Sopranos: we need the next Deadwood, Carnivale, Futurama or Fawlty Towers.

But if you're a TV producer and it looks like someone just might be proposing the next Sopranos, I say go ahead and give it the green light ... then kill it young!!