Peering through the cyber-trees, trying to find the forest…

So about midway through the short sabbatical from writing to concentrate on dealing with some other stuff, I check back and realise the cliffhanger’s another oddly prophetic comic strip. I am sort of enjoying how the PBS posts have become markers for these little breaks in the process…it seems so appropriately random…but, uh, everything’s fine, folks. I just thought the strip was amusingly reminiscent of the way train whistles make me feel sometimes. Really.

Anyway, here I am back in the saddle again, ready to supply all your pointless rambling needs! The long-awaited Mythbusters post – look, I’ve been away, humour me for a sec, OK? – is in the pipeline, also another edition of the Occasional Christie. I just need to do a little cranial housekeeping first. Two weeks sans snark outlet has left it seriously cluttered up in here…

OK, the latest Fido mobile phone ads? From the company whose longtime trademark has been campaigns featuring adorable real dogs? Yeah, so apparently every once in awhile the account head snaps and reveals the terrible consequences of being trapped in the marketing equivalent of a neverending James Herriot serial.
Seriously, this isn’t even cutesey disturbing, like the teeny-people-in-your-videophone bit. This is disturbing like me spending hours in subway stations staring at huge posters of this hapless blown-up beagle with a “Budget cuts! We just hired the veterinary equivalent of Josef Mengele! Call lots of people so this never has to happen to another dog!” look on his face. At 6am, I might add. Do. Not. Want.

Cool random linkage of the week: You know that lovely hoarding-the-treasure feeling you get when you discover some bit of marvelous creativity that’s so obscure it doesn’t even get mentioned on Net forums? No? OK, maybe just me and my notably misanthropic attitude to fandom generally.
I don’t object to the concept of fanhood, you understand; I can’t, or the many bright, literate and likeable people on my f-list will unsheath their rapier wits all over my hapless strawman and there will go the neighborhood. It’s just that…well, it sort of takes the fun out of the thing, to discover that the author/TV series/movie you thought yourself adorably original for appreciating actually has about eight dozen busy forums, not to mention tribute sites and of course dedicated blogs.

You’re faced with the frankly exhausting realisation that in order to maintain yourself as Alpha Original you’ll be needing to keep up with all of them, and decide to go off in a corner and try to ignore the whole thing, except of course you can’t, because you still love whatever-it-was. It’s all most unsatisfying…

…What did this whole rant start out from again? Oh, yes, West of Bathurst. A webcomic detailing the antics of students at a (semi-)fictional Toronto grad school. In structure and tone it works a lot like those ‘young, single and ironic about it’ sitcoms of the early 90’s – which turn out to be quite alluring filtered through the quirkiness of advanced academia. Put briefly, if you can understand why a gorgeous, brilliant, charming guy would naturally be suspected of being Satan, you’re in. And not a forum in sight. It’ll be our little treasure.

Meanwhile…um…I just realised that my chieftest obsession is actually pretty exclusive, too. There is a Bob & Ray Yahoo! group, but it’s kind of slow. Apparently not so much with the foregathering to make icons, among B&R fans. To get a sense of their popularity you have to pull together lots of random online comments on such sites as YouTube and Amazon, immediately after the memory circuits have been activated: “Oh yeah, that one! I loved that one! These guys were the best ever…” And I’m imagining all these middle-aged people being provoked into figuring out this Interweb-thingy out of sheer remembered delight, and it’s enough. Besides, having watched the YouTube videos…I’m not really in the market for the fanfic anyway.

I’m reading comments on Amazon, I should mention, because – as attentive readers will recall – I recently purchased a CD that promised one great honking wad of B&R material. Salutory-lesson-from-the-misfortunes-of-others time, kiddies; just because the great honking wad of material is on a CD that retails for $12-freaking-95 plus shipping doesn’t necessarily mean the vendor feels the need to ensure it’s worth it. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s anything other than the same standard p2p wad you can easily download online for free. Excepting about ten or twelve bits that were clearly excised from the standard long ago owing to being literally unintelligible.

We are not amused. Except, OK, at the one file entitled ‘Their Worst Show Ever’, which turns out to be the Christmas Day 1948 Matinee, featuring an audibly tired and cranky Bob alone in the studio and giving the clear impression we’re lucky he showed up at all. I can relate. We also learn from another bit that Ray, like many very private people, had no idea when to stop sharing once he’d started. Thus the story of how his friends from [unintelligible] once ‘went to his house’ while he was away and ‘filled his bathtub with lime Jell-O’. Nope, not missing the potential fanfic, no sir, no problem there what-so-ever…

In other new media, the audiobook subscription experience has been unusually rich for the past couple of months. The uniquely beguiling No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – I’m not even looking for the forums, thank you very much – turns out to have a perfect narrator in Lisette Lecat. Listening to these stories told in an authentic accent, you get a deeper and more satisfying idea of what author Alexander McCall Smith is trying to do with them. The implied condescension that bugged me during the reading becomes real appreciation of a culture that considers the depth of simple things. (Although if anyone can given me a not-cutesy reason why Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni always – and uniquely – gets the English honorific, instead of the local equivalent ‘Rra’, I’d be very much obliged.)

I’ve also been rummaging around in the classics – it was about time for my biannual reread of Nineteen Eighty Four anyway, and Simon Prebble’s masterful take made it a quite genuine Experience. He lives the book; he is that character, the middle-class British citizen of record who just happens to be trapped in hell. I had to stop the reading at several points to turn to something more cheerful…which that month was The Great Gatsby. Clearly, I must be stopped before I find myself eyeing Jude the Obscure speculatively.

…Phew, much better. I’d forgotten how good it feels, this writing business. Almost as satisfying an outlet as chasing airplanes.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ext_122834
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 21:27:37

    I would like to mention that I have been a fan of West of Bathurst pretty much since it started, truly truly Alpha Omega here (which explains how/why I came to this post…). The author is quite brilliant, and I love the other stuff that she does too (check, e.g., Kari’s rants, on the same website). Sometimes I do sigh bemoaning the lack of a comment page though: you know when something you read makes you laugh or cry out loud, you kind of want to let the author know that (otherwise it’s a bit like the tree falling in the forest type of thing).

    Anyways, I ramble. Nice post. Will come back more often.

    Ester
    *****

  2. shoebox2
    Sep 17, 2008 @ 18:13:08

    Thank you so much! You’re most welcome anytime.

    I hear you re: comments pages [obviously…:)]. Should’ve made it a bit clearer above that I don’t at all object to the idea of the author having a place to collect feedback and interact w/their fans.

    In the case of WoB, the prospect of reading the collation, discussing and hypothesising re: Casey evidence would be worth it alone.

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