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for July 30, 2003

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We're Thinking, So You Don't Have To!
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love, a fine figment of an easily distractible mind, has been in mothballs for a while, tappity tappity tapping her perfect manicure, while her corporeal counterpart Rob Pastorio-Newman enjoyed the hospitality of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Not to worry, pets, all is well and in the land where morphine drips and time fails to pass, a person attempting to ignore the wails of fellow patients and the indignity of secretion scrutiny may do some important escapist thinking. Pay no attention to the yakking of your suitemate - her mother and an efficient nursing staff will handle this matter! - let's think about thinking, and television, two great tastes that taste great separately, but not necessarily on the same bagel.
There's a whole field of science devoted to thinking about thinking and for a long, tense period, the Cy Young Award winner in this ballpark was Jacques Derrida whose works on the subject were written in language so complex only a handful of academics could read them. People who could read this stuff went bananas because Derrida seemed to say that the business of thinking was so complex we couldn't be sure we knew what we were talking about, and we probably couldn't be talking about the same things, and so there's no way we can order pizza. Perhaps academics howled because they'd called for delivery, and while Derrida may be right to the extent that sometimes dinner arrives without the extra garlic, certainly what shows up is a college student holding a pizza and not a ring-tailed lemur. Now, this is one microscopic idea in a giant sea of ideas in the work of one prodigious thinker, as apprehended by Your Gentle Seahorse long ago in some primer possibly called Derrida For Beginners, which Your Hammerhead Shark, not being one of these highly trained intellectuals, read as Run, Spot and Lola, Run .
Television, the cerebral frontier, is now full of people doing some freestyle thinking. Unfortunately, most of this thinking is about crime, which if you think about it for more than a few seconds might be paranoia-inducing. Why crime? Why is the preponderance of thinking devoted to detection of bad behavior and not - say - new and interesting ways to cure cancer or solve the eternal riddle of the tube top? Chalk this up to our post-9/11 belief that behind every potted ficus there's a hirsute felon, which is to say some not especially rational thinking, and let's catch the better brainwave.
All your life, people have been running around in Quinn-Martin Productions solving hinky Hollywood crimes with sometimes off-putting morals to the stories. You can still - depending on your age, squeamishness, and service provider - watch people thinking about scripted crimes on your several varieties of Law & Order and both versions of CSI, but you can gently observe people thinking about crime on Diagnosis Murder, at the other end of the brutal and very-not-brutal scale. Everything is available to you, plot-wise and violence-wise, including chase scenes with classic cars and leisure suits. One odd note: on Cablevision, two Christian networks in the program guide purportedly offer Quincy several times a week, but if you actually look, funny evangelists will try to convert you. You'd think this kind of bait-and-switch programming would be illegal somehow, but how different is that from Quincy?
You can watch people think about real crimes and techniques used to solve them, too: interstate crimes (FBI Files), historic crimes (Moments In Time), antique crimes (Cold Case Files), Canadian crimes (Secrets of Forensic Science), dubious crimes (American Justice), even more dubious crimes (History's Mysteries), not to mention virtually everything on the History Channel, most of which should begin with the narrator intoning, "Today in Hitler..."
Not every bit of thinking on television is devoted to crime. A few stray thoughts may be devoted to engineering. Discovery is launching a whole channel devoted to flight, while the hospital carried something really interesting: Tech TV. (Try watching this on a morphine drip that knocks you out every ten minutes for about eight, and you can play a new game: Guess That Device! Don't worry, you won't remember losing.) One of the best things about Junkyard Wars is the cartoon diagrams explaining the physics and mechanics behind the junk, and you can now see more of this albeit with fewer Brits on Extreme Engineering, however viewers are compensated for the lack of silly Brits with a fresh supply of the can-do Dutch. Some TV thinking is about archaeology, very interesting! Nova and Scientific American with Alan Alda also present ideas we might not get to think about ourselves, but both tend to jump around a bit, as if the producers are afraid we might get bored. This is too bad, since few scenarios are more bizarre than Alan Alda opening an interview with a paraplegic man with the very leading, "'re paralyzed?"
Dahhhlings, while Your Playful Octopus recovers on the couch, we'll talk more about TV than live music or even the radio. And why not, when there's so much to talk about?

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


Today's NY/NJ Shows That Matter

Friday, May 29, 2020
Polaris at The Foundry, Philly (POSTPONED)
Connor Bracken & The Mother Leeds Band, Jaron Clemons & The Late Nights, Morningside Lane and more at House Of Independents (POSTPONED TILL AUG 21)
Lucinda Williams at City Winery (Pier 57) (POSTPONED)
Peter Wolf & The Midnight Travelers at Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown NY (POSTPONED)
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ALTROK recommends music once a week; here's our most recent choices. Most links will take you to a place where you can buy the music; if there's no link, and you own a record company, consider releasing it yourself...

A Place To Bury Strangers - It Is Nothing
The Boxer Rebellion - Semi-Automatic
The Cribs - Cheat On Me
Datarock - True Stories
Everything Everything - Photoshop Handsome
HEALTH - Die Slow
Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls - Catching More Than We Miss
Julian Plenti - Games For Days
Los Campesinos - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future (Free download!)
Miike Snow - Black & Blue

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