Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss

Tom has finally made his peace with this book, but it took a while.  He used to enjoy having it read to him right up to the point where our hero is finally forced, by ‘Sam I Am’, to try the titular dish.  Then Tom would grab the book and throw it across the room.  He had heard what happened after that, and didn’t like the message the book was trying to impart.  So, for Tom, this was for a while the tale of a proud individualist who even having been forced into a train wreck by a pseudonymous terrorist, possibly working for Big Ham, then lost at sea, would still not give in and submit to the ham agenda.  

As someone who finds that part of ‘Cars’ where Lightning McQueen is forced to stay in a small town and learn about values to be a paranoid nightmare in the tradition of 'The Prisoner’, I must say I rather supported Tom’s stance.  However, it’s probably for the best that he’s now started to let us read the book to the end.  Like Winston Smith in '1984’, he now loves 'Green Eggs and Ham’.

What their return to health will look like: As the INTJ returns to health, they will shift their focus away from petty details and regain their big-picture mindset. They will develop an increased concentration on goals and long-term projects, which will bring them steadily closer to what they want out of the future. A healthy INTJ is an INTJ who can synthesize and carry out long-term projects – in as efficient a manner as possible.

No, in common with my father, my friends and people I know professionally, the desperate desire to find something to say and not sound like an idiot just makes you do jokes all the time. Jokes are a nervous reflex. Sometimes you can end up being irritating or seeming facetious or like you’re showing off, and all you’re trying to do is justify the fact that you spoke at all. I’ve come to understand that charm isn’t being funny. Charm is finding other people funny.

There’s this book club phenomenon — my mother-in-law is in a book club and now my wife is in a book club — and so I’ve heard any number of people say they get the “gist” of books. They haven’t read the book. They say, “I read enough to get the gist.” Just, no. Don’t. I can’t engage in that conversation. You don’t get the gist of Jane Austen. You either read Jane Austen or you don’t.

'Don't Be a Moron'

I was having lunch with a friend who’d survived a heart attack a couple of years ago. When I asked him if he had any dietary restrictions, he shared the story of going to his doctor post-coronary with a written list of questions about what he should or shouldn’t eat going forward.

The doctor took a look at the list, then ripped up the paper and threw it in the bin.

“Here’s my dietary advice,” said the doctor. “Don’t be a moron.”

“What do you mean?” asked my friend.

“I mean,” replied the doctor, “use your common sense. Eat heart-healthy food most of the time, and if you really fancy the odd bowl of macaroni and cheese, enjoy it.”

While I was a little taken aback at the bluntness of the advice when I first heard the story, I’ve come to realize that it’s a fantastic response for pretty much any kind of question people have about how to live their lives.


‘Don’t Be a Moron’

The next time you meet some person who is utterly captivated by some undertaking that completely mystifies you, give him the benefit of the doubt. Hold back on your instinctive imputing of excess spare time and hang the obsession in a tickler-file in the back of your brain to pull out and think about in the shower or the post-office line. If you’re very lucky, a little of that delight may rub off on you, too.

I noticed that touring — which is wonderful in some ways — is absolutely confining in other ways. It’s so difficult… you just can’t think about anything else. You try your hardest: You take books with you and word processors, and you’re definitely going to do something with the time. And you never do. It’s so easy for it to become your exclusive life, this one and a half hours every evening that you play. And I just thought, “I’m losing touch with what I really like doing.” What I really like doing is what I call Import and Export. I like taking ideas from one place and putting them into another place and seeing what happens when you do that. I think you could probably sum up nearly everything I’ve done under that umbrella. Understanding something that’s happening in painting, say, and then seeing how that applies to music. Or understanding something that’s happening in experimental music and seeing what that could be like if you used it as a base for popular music. It’s a research job, a lot of it. You spend a lot of time sitting around, fiddling around with things, quite undramatically, and finally something clicks into place and you think, ”Oh, thats really worth doing.” The time spent researching is a big part of it. I never imagined a pop star life that would’ve permitted that.

Monday Assorted Links

When Procrastination doesn’t keep me from doing what I should be doing, I fall back on creating a links post.

  1. Digitized K-mart in-store background music (1989-1993). As Susie Bright said in her Facebook post, “This is a soundtrack waiting for its porn film.”
  2. Pick your guru carefully.
  3. 19th-century views of the Year 2000.
  4. Alternate Histories has released its 2015 Holiday Pack!
  5. The James Randi documentary, An Honest Liar, which I saw via Netflix. Randi fought the good fight, but as his nemesis Uri Gellar says near the end, “We won.” And as the movie shows, Randi’s own need to believe is great. The most bizarre scene is an old television clip of him hanging upside-down, escaping from a straitjacket, while a woman in elegant poofy dress sings “You’ve Got the Magic Touch.”
  6. We suffered a break-in earlier this year. Nevertheless, I draw the line at this.

Pre-Med: Preparing the Instruments

hamishmacbethThe producers contracted with Dominic Minghella to create this new Doc Martin series for Buffalo Pictures and ITV. By 2004, Minghella’s credits included writing stints on TV series and TV movies, so he knew the business and knew what was needed. But the credit that probably secured the job for him was his time as writer and script editor on the Hamish Macbeth series (1995-97).

Based on (but in no way resembling) MC Beaton's mystery novels, Hamish Macbeth was an easygoing police constable in a remote and picturesque North Scottish village who dealt with the escapades of the eccentric locals and the stray bad apples who come to town. The location shots were magnificent, there was a large cast of village characters to help and hinder Hamish, and -- just to complicate his life a little more -- he suffers romantic misunderstandings with two local women. Macbeth's job entitled him to poke his nose behind usually closed doors, talk to all manner and classes of people, and be privy to most everyone's secrets. A single episode could shift tonally from light rural humor to grim mystery to romantic heartbreak to outlandish adventure-type setpiece.

Minghella therefore had experience creating the texture of the kind of world that the new Doc Martin would inhabit.

So Doc Martin’s genetic code includes: movies, setting, a production framework, and a writer skilled in creating episodic stories blending humor, drama, and romance. The producers also kept the “Doc Martin” name while dropping “Martin Bamford”. As that character had been created by Ferguson and Crowdy, good business sense dictated creating a new character not beholden to another’s copyright. The new character would now be called Martin Ellingham, his surname being an anagram of Minghella. Clever, that.

Another consideration was taking ITV’s fish-out-of-water idea under advisement and pushing it a bit further. Northern Exposure is probably the most obvious template for this sort of series; the 1990-1995 series was a big hit with its story of an uptight, big-city doctor bemused and frustrated by the quirky residents of a remote Alaskan village. Rob Morrow’s Dr. Joel was obnoxious and spiky, but he softened a bit as the series wore on and fell in love with the beautiful Maggie; the unsophisticated yet accepting community surrounding him patiently tolerated his bad attitude with warmth and good humor.

It was a good, smart show (for a few seasons, anyway), but why remake Northern Exposure in Cornwall? Why remake Hamish Macbeth, for that matter? What could be done to make Doc Martin's tone different from other fish-out-of-water, city-mouse-meets-country-mouse stories that dot the English literary and televisual landscape? What could be the central conflict that would drive the storytelling?

The answer was to take what worked for Northern Exposure — the culture clash between high-powered, no-nonsense doctor and sleepy little backward village — and push it to its logical, humorous extreme: make the protagonist so cranky and unlikable that, as Clunes has said, the village would be united in horror against him.

This is classic fiction writing 101 (and I mean that in a good way; we too often forget the basics): put the character in conflict with his setting to bring forth both his best and worst traits. That’s an aspect of story structure lacking from the Bamford movies and Hamish Macbeth: those characters loved living in their villages. They wanted to fit in. They had friends and allies. And to be fair, that's probably a reason viewers tuned in to watch those shows. But having the new Doc Martin be irritated every time he strolled through the village or examined his patients might spark more vigorous comic moments and give the character more bite. This sweet setting demanded dollops of vinegar.

Leading to the question: what was the tone of the show going to be? Straight-forward medical drama? Light drama with humorous touches, a la All Creatures Great and Small? A bit of soap opera, a bit of comedy, with a few bits of seriousness tossed about here and there to leaven the tone? How quirky and eccentric could the stories and characters become before they tipped over into too silly?  How quickly should the romance get started and how would that play out over the series?

Many such questions and choices must have presented themselves and even more decisions had to be made. Committing millions of pounds to any entertainment venture requires hard-headed decision-making behind the scenes: planning, budgeting, contracts, casting, cinematography, catering, editing, promotion, etc. No matter what the viewer may think as they see the whimsical story unfold before them, very few big decisions about that story are left to chance.

In the end, the movies leave only trace amounts of their DNA in the TV show: a doctor named Martin, a lead actor, a director, and a setting. The blueprint created for the first six episodes of Doc Martin— all written by Minghella and directed by Bolt — established a durable template for the series that came after. It also spawned a character better adapted for his TV surroundings and the rigors of weekly episodic storytelling.

All that’s left is to get our irascible doctor pointed in the general direction of the Cornish coast…

A Facelift for Shakespeare

A new translation effort aims to make all of Shakespeare’s plays comprehensible to today’s audiences

Source: A Facelift for Shakespeare


I once interviewed an actor playing Hamlet who preferred using Shakespeare’s language in a production where the rest of the cast played a revised text. He felt the text was perfectly understandable if it was capably played, and that removing Shakespeare’s language constrained him from fully inhabiting the character.

I sympathize with McWhorter’s points insofar as reading the plays; but if I’m watching a performance, then I think the music of the words, and the actors’ skill (movement, intonation, characterization) will convey the meaning.

But the question remains: who would fardels bear??