Saturday, May 24, 2014

R.I.P. "COMMUNITY," 2009-2014... I'll truly miss you!

There was once, at the very beginning, a sense in which this show had-- well, let us say... at least a bare working context of actual reality.  It would still have been watchable, even good in that form... but thankfully, the whole project went wildly off the rails and fast... even well before that first quirky season ended.

The original premise? It was pretty simple, really.

A cocky lawyer is disbarred when it is discovered he had no real bachelor's degree, and he has no choice but to enroll at a local Community College to procure one.  Even the college in those early episodes was something similar to a real JC-- and of course there's a strangeness to all higher learning campuses in today's USA that could reasonably sustain a hip, satirical, comedic look at one.  

Instead of this, however, COMMUNITY-- the sitcom brain-child of some geeky genius guy named Dan Harmon-- chose to be a hip, satirical, comedic look at... well... at Television itself, at story conceits in general, really at everything from metaphysics and religion and science fiction,  to the strange appeal of ersatz "barely-foods" like chicken fingers, and ersatz "barley-tropes" like zombie apocalypses.

In retrospect, it had to end sometime, and now is probably that time.  Looking back, the whole show-- from season one to season five-- and I was watching the very first night it premiered-- has a nice kind of completeness to it.   Recently, I watched that pilot episode again as a syndicated replay.  Although it didn't have the insanity of the later episodes it was actually a perfect starter.  At one point, the lawyer Jeff Winger's old friend Duncan, now a washed-up junior college professor, tells Jeff:

"What you have now, my friend, is a second chance at an honest life."  

And, amazingly, this truly serves as the overall thematic arc of the entire series:  a cynic-- who borders being a sociopath-- is forced to make and maintain friends with his own dysfunctional and irritating community-at-hand.

Now, don't get me wrong... there was always  a sense in which that whole thing was the usual annoyingly heavy-handed allegory about human collectivism [even the title was significantly suggestive of that favorite Hollywood theme about  a deeper and mystical "socialism within us all"-- usually stuff that sends this old libertarian scrambling-- I mean SCRAMBLING-- for the remote control!]  

But what set COMMUNITY apart-- at least for me-- were two things:

1.  An amazing ensemble cast of truly gifted comedic actors [comedians are one thing, actors are another... the talented hybrid of both is a MUCH rarer thing than we often realize.]

2.  A team of writers who often actually succeeded in doing what is usually only claimed:  creating scripts that are new takes and truly unique in the history of the American sit-com.

This combination gave us stuff like the legendary "Time-line" episode [don't even ask how many times my kids and I have watched this one]; the 2-- count them-- 2 Dungeons & Dragons episodes [amazing textured entertainment even to a guy who never even thought of playing an RPG-- and I confess I kinda want to now!];  the Law & Order episode ["Need I remind you, gentlemen, this is NOT a court of law!"]; and the list goes on and on. 

COMMUNITY famously had one of those "loyal cult followings" that literally saved it from cancelation about 4 times.  Although I never joined any campaign to save it or sent any emails on its behalf, I am truly thankful for all those fellow geeks that did.

One thing's for sure:   Thursday nights will never be quite the same again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WELL I MADE IT TO FIVE-0! [and I don't mean Hawaii!]

Yep it was May 14, 1964-- 16th Israeli Independence day-- the day I first came to America... :) 

50 years!  It's a doggone half century!  to be honest, I feel pretty much the same as I have most of my adult life... 'cept I need to drop some weight! 

I prayed for wisdom a lot when younger.   Now it seems like what wisdom I got came with a price in this mortal life. 

Still, I can NOT complain!  Life is good and God is Great!


Psalms 90:12 
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

COOL STUFF FROM LIBRARY BOOKS #33, Mother's Day Edition: "D.L. Moody's Mother And Her Own Prodigal"

How Moody's Mother
Forgave her Prodigal Son.
I can give you a little experience of my own family.
Before I was fourteen years old the first thing I remember was the death of my father. He had been unfortunate in business, and failed. Soon after his death the creditors came in and took everything.
My mother was left with a large family of children. One calamity after another swept over the entire household. Twins were added to the family, and my mother was taken sick. The eldest boy was fifteen years of age, and to him my mother looked as a stay in her calamity, but all at once that boy became a wanderer. He had been reading some of the trashy novels, and the belief had seized him that he had only to go away to make a fortune. Away he went. I can remember how eagerly she used to look for tidings of that boy; how she used to send us to the post office to see if there was a letter from him, and recollect how we used to come back with the sad news,
"No letter."
I remember how in the evenings we used to sit beside her in that New England home, and we would talk about our father; but the moment the name of that boy was mentioned she would hush us into silence. Some nights when the wind was very high, and the house, which was upon a hill, would tremble at every gust, the voice of my mother was raised in prayer for that wanderer who had treated her so unkindly.
I used to think she loved him more than all the rest of us put together, and I believe she did. On a Thanksgiving day--you know that is a family day in New England--she used to set a chair for him, thinking he would return home. Her family grew up and her boys left home. When I got so that I could write, I sent letters all over the country, but could find no trace of him. One day while in Boston the news reached me that he had returned.
While in that city, I remember how I used to look for him in every store--he had a mark on his face--but I never got any trace. One day while my mother was sitting at the door, a stranger was seen coming toward the house, and when he came to the door he stopped.
My mother didn't know her boy.
He stood there with folded arms and great beard flowing down his breast, his tears trickling down his face. When my mother saw those tears she cried,
"Oh, it's my lost son,"
 and entreated him to come in. But he stood still.
"No, mother," he said, "I will not come in till I hear first you forgive me."
Do you believe she was not willing to forgive him? Do you think she was likely to keep him long standing there? She rushed to the threshold and threw her arms around him, and breathed forgiveness.
Ah, sinner, if you but ask God to be merciful to you a sinner, ask Him for forgiveness, although your life has been bad--ask Him for mercy, and He will not keep you long waiting for an answer.

From MOODY'S ANECDOTES, also known as: "Moody's Anecdotes And Illustrations
       Related in his Revival Work by the Great Evangilist"
CHICAGO: Rhodes & McClure Publishing Co. 1899