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David Carradine and 'Kung Fu'

On my to-do list today is "Decline to speculate wildly on what exactly happened to David Carradine in Thailand" -- and also may at some point harumph skeptically at the assertion (made in an online chat yesterday by a forensic scientist) that about 1,000 people a year die of autoerotic asphyxiation. Round numbers always look suspicious -- a flare for arm-waving rather than empiricism. If it's a guess, then what's it based on? If it's a solid fact, then howzabout someone pony up a peer-reviewed study?

It's a tragedy in any event. I can't remember if "Kung Fu" was really that good of a show, but it was certainly watchable (back then we weren't as choosy when it came to TV entertainment -- fewer options, lower standards). There was an essay a while back by Steven Johnson in the Times magazine about the increasing complexity of TV shows -- how, instead of a single, linear plot, with conflict and resolution, a TV drama is more likely to have multiple plot threads, many characters of roughly equal importance, and storylines that carry over from week to week and even season to season. He uses "24" as an example:

For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as that ''24'' episode suggests, the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of ''24,'' you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ''24,'' you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships.

And yet there was pleasure to be had in a somewhat formulaic show like "Kung Fu." It was the pleasure of knowing that Caine was going to try really hard to keep his priestly serenity going, and tolerate the insults and egregious behavior of the bad guys, but that, by the end of the episode, he was going to have no choice but to roundhouse kick someone.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 9, 2009; 8:50 AM ET
 
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Comments

i wish Bruce Lee had played that part.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The influence of that television show descended onto our playground like a swarm of edgy grasshoppers. To my adolescent friends and I the empowerment of the martial arts coupled with the implied Deep Knowledge of the faux mysticism defined what it was to be cool. We all yearned to go through life in a state of Enlightened Condescension, while still being able to kick the livin’ snot outta people if the need arose. It meant being wise and powerful, when we knew, deep down, that we were neither.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Except, of course, that Johnson's premise is utterly, utterly wrong. He has apparently never heard of soap operas, which have only been around on TV for, oh, a half a century now, just about from Day One. And in fact, the oldest, Guiding Light, started on radio in 1937.

Let's see:

Non-linear plots: check.
Single plot-line? Nope.
Conflict and resolution in a single episode? Nope
Multiple plot threads: check.
Many characters of roughly equal importance: check.
Storylines that carry over from week to week and even season to season: check.
Characters whose personalities change and morph over time: check.
"[Y]ou have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships": check.

All the above is actually true of just about any long-running radio show, be it Flibber McGee and Molly, Duffy's Tavern, The Great Gildersleeve, whatever. Ditto the movie serials: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Don Winslow of the Coast Guard, etc. Those characters did tend to stable, not shifting social relationships. But heaven knows, about the last thing any soap opera had was a stable, long-term relationship.

Watch any episode of "ER" in re-run, and the first thing you have to ask is the same thing you ask about "General Hospital" in 1966: who is sleeping with who this week, who did what to who? Is Monica really carrying on with Dr. Russell, or his brother?

Methinks Johnson is suffering from "Things Today Must Be Different [and Better] Than They Were Back in the Old Days." So he ignores all evidence to the contrary, perhaps because he isn't even aware of it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

In theater, the sort with live actors and a live (and hopefully wakeful) audience, cost containment enforces a maximum of four actors, which makes soap-operatic storylines unworkable. Unless, of course, the actors are talking on the phone to any number of people. Or playing multiple characters. Or hearing things from offstage.

Soap opera does seem to have spread its influence to what's left of prime time.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 9, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"a flare for arm-waving "

A flair for it, too.

;)

Posted by: wiredog | June 9, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of 24, this last season was very good - probably the best one. Kiefer's unplanned sabbatical must have allowed some additional writing time.

I'm nearly done season 3 of BSG. I hadn't heard about BSG until well into season 2. I just passed the one episode I did watch "live" - the rogue doctor one - which I found interesting but not enough to start following. It took a combination of rewatching the miniseries and being lent the first three seasons to prime the obsession.

The problem with complex shows is that you can't really just drop in, and then it's a major undertaking to catch up. We fell behind on the Sopranos a season or two short of the finale and still haven't watched the rest.

Ivansmom, Titus Andronicus playing here at our summer festival shortly (along with much fluffier Comedy of Errors on alternating days - would be interesting to study the differing demographics if any).

Kung Fu. Didn't watch it myself. The first US series with a cult following?

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I think it was actually "H.P. Lovecraft Presents," engelmann...

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

It occurs to me the same can be said about some of Shakespeare, such as the History plays:

Non-linear plots: check.
Single plot-line? Nope (think of the comedies, especially).
Conflict and resolution in a single episode [play]? Yes and no.
Multiple plot threads: check.
Many characters of roughly equal importance: check.
Storylines that carry over from week to week and even season to season: check, more or less.
Characters whose personalities change and morph [i.e. from play to play, not within a single play]: Absolutely. See Hal, Prince. See Falstaff, Sir John. See a couple of Richards and other Henrys beside V.
"[Y]ou have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships": check.

I don't think the notion that "the 'masses' want dumb, simple pleasures" was ever true. It might have been true that radio, TV or movie people might have *thought* that, but that doesn't make it true. Even the "groundlings" in the pit at any Shakespeare play had to bring a certain amount of awareness and background information into any play they were watching.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

For something to become a formula, it has to work well enough the first time for people to want more-- and also for others to want to try and do knock-offs.

Social cognition is one of the most demanding activities of humanity-- and one of the most natural.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

In that article Johnson makes the argument that television programs are becoming more complex in part because the youth market demands it. The multiple viewings enabled by recording technology coupled with active on-line communities, his argument goes, rewards intricate plots and long story arcs. And I have no reason to doubt this. My concern is that this isn’t necessarily a healthy development. And television is the least of it.

Between computers and video games we seem to be developing increasingly seductive virtual environments that are distracting attention from the real world. I mean, my son, I fear, has spent far more time experiencing life via glowing screens than I am really comfortable with. Now, perhaps, as has been suggested, these are just the ravings of one whose thinking is hopelessly stuck in the last century.

Still, will people really care as much about the natural environment and trees and stuff when they can retreat into ersatz worlds like “Second Life?” Will those aspects of culture, civilization, and interpersonal relations not reducible to bits of data transmitted via fiber optics invariably deteriorate? I dunno.

But I do recall the time, years ago now, when my basement flooded slightly. Much of the floor was under a quarter inch of water. Yet, my son sat on his comfy couch in the middle of this mess. When, with admirable calm, I inquired as to why he had not felt motivated to inform anyone of this nascent disaster, he looked at me with honest confusion.

“But Dad,” he protested, “It didn’t reach the electronics.”

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, RD about computers in general, although I agree with you about video games, especially MMOs.

I haven't seen much seduction on the A-blog, though. Not THAT sort of blog... yet.

Thank goodness.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Second Life? The ever-decreasing number of comments related to Second Life suggests to me that it has reached audience saturation, and may be fading.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 9, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al, Happy Donald Duck Day!

http://www.examiner.com/x-1146-Seattle-Eastside-Family-Examiners~y2009m6d9-Happy-Donald-Duck-Day

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 9, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Um (*where have I been*?) -- what's BSG?

Found out last night from a friend that the niece of a mutual friend is pregnant (18 years old and very, very smart but not a HS graduate, having gone off the edge when she became maybe 13-14 or so). The young woman has apparently also filed a restraining order against the father, so I don't know whether it's a r@pe situation or not. She's due in November and it is unclear whether she is going to keep the child or put it up for adoption. Well, the entire family is in that category, much like most everyone else's, of putting the "fun" in dysfunctional. It's too bad. I've known the young woman since she was a newborn, and I've seen the mood swings and self-destructiveness. But I've also seen the sweetness and the brains. Her parents are on the clueless side; the father is almost totally non-functional as an adult or as a parent -- zero self-esteem in that guy -- and the mother, while reasonably intelligent and is the parent who brings home the bacon, is not the nurturing sort, either. Both parents are rather juvenile, and the young woman has basically raised herself and is very, very angry about it. Too bad her choices have been inwardly destructive and have not caused her to reach outward for help.

I even dreamt about this last night, interspersed with dreams about -- and here's a warning to stand back, 'cause I'm gonna shout:

THE DETROIT RED WINGS WILL DESERVEDLY WIN THE STANLEY CUP FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW AGAINST THE SAME OPPONENT!!!!!!

Well, now, *that* was fun! I'm soooo looking forward to tonight's game. And if, by some chance of fate, we lose tonight, I'll be back at it on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (well, I won't be there, but the team will be home for that game).

And on that note, toodley doodley boodley to ya!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 9, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I for one am doing my best to develop children who still appreciate the natural world - they just love it everytime I drag them outside to gaze a new flower or look at a bird. Eldest almost put down her laptop to follow me the other day.

I laughed yesterday when I went to pick up my younger daughter from school (too rainy stormy to walk). I got there early so I was rearranging CD's in the car, located Blue Rodeo's greatest hits that I didn't know was in there and was enjoying listening to it. Younger daughter hopped in the car and quickly asked if we could have some "modern music, not like you know from the eighties".

The Eighties - my high school/university years are now considered ancient history - as I looked back to the fifties as old when I was her age, she now looks back to the eighties. Sigh.

I think the boodle would make a good long running comedy/drama, what a cast of characters - although as Wilbrod points out it is missing the seduction/deceit/romance angle - not that is a bad thing mind you.

I do believe I would be perfect in the role of the class clown/dimwitted relative :-)

Posted by: dmd2 | June 9, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I would also say that many novels also have those characteristics.

Posted by: Raysmom | June 9, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

dmd2 - my son, for reasons I haven't fully understood, has become a big fan of music from the 1970s. He is more familiar with music from my adolescence than am I. I guess one of the advantages of the internet is that it provides an excellent gateway for people to rediscover music.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

BSG is for BattleStar Galactica but I had to look it up. I have the intention to watch it some day. *sigh*

I'll be a grand-uncle early next fall. I am so not ready for that. My son's best childhood friend came the other day with his 6-7 months-old son. I realized I am not ready to be a grand-dad either. I'm still young fur crying out loud.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I rarely watch continuing dramas, i.e., "Tv shows" per se. If they can't wind it up in 6 minutes I'd rather read a book. But not in all cases. And I especially hate canned laugh tracks, can't watch it usually. I made an exception for Seinfeld.

Now I discover that Malcolm in the Middle had no laugh track. I am intrigued, and may go back and look at some.

Kung Fu also had no laugh track.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

60. An hour. chee.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

RD, as anti-computer therapy, I suggest hauling son to a large, scenic lake and have him learn the joys of distance gazing.

If not, make him cut bait.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Subservient chicken is robotically slavish.
http://www.subservientchicken.com/

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Mudge. Perhaps Mr. Johnson hasn't fully considered the range of shows on TV since its inception, and their progenitors on radio. Or maybe soap operas and their ilk don't count, since they were not prime-time and their admitted viewers were mainly women. Or maybe I'm being too sensitive.

That said, "The Simpsons" is still the best show on TV.

RD, I loved the flood story. I too am uneasy with the number and variety of screen activities the Boy has enjoyed to date; video and computer games, TV shows, movies, online things. For his birthday I gave him artist-quality colored pencils. The only requirement is that he use them frequently over the course of the summer.

I can usually distract his attention for a deer, snake or other interesting animal or insect. Weather phenomena, sure. Plants, not so often.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 9, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

As for priestly serenity and sex, one need only think of that priest Cutie (Koot-e-yah) guy in Florida.

Posted by: laloomis | June 9, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Don't feel bad, ftb. I didn't know "BSG" either. Thought maybe it was some sort of flavor enhancer used in Chinese restaurants.

Excellent point, Raysmom.

SD, how old are you? Yeah, I suppose becoming a granddad is a bit of a shock if you're not ready for it. But once you get past that, it's a hoot. All of the fun of being a (surrogate) parent, but none of the down side. It's just full of wonderful paybacks on your own kids as they gradually become aware that maybe you aren't/weren't such an idiot after all.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you should try the miniseries (start of season 1) of Battlestar Galactica. Like many space shows, it is in large part a naval drama set in space.

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I suppose somebody has to stick up for poor Mr. Johnson -- I don't think that he was claiming that dense intertwined multi-episode plot lines are a new concept, nor that it's even new to TV. I think his contention is that it is new to have it dominate the schedule, and that it is new in the extent to which it dominates script-writing.

As an analogy, consider that variety shows were part of TV from the beginning and probably into the 80's (or even the 90's?). Yet, there's no question that there was a definable Age of the Variety Show, when the schedule held, nearly simultaneously, the Smother Brothers, Laugh-In, Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Hee-Haw, and Donny and Marie (who pretty much killed the medium, them and the Brady Bunch Variety Show).

Prime-time TV dramas of the 60's and 70's very much tended to have self-contained stories within each episode. Even if characters developed from show to show, there was little loss of clarity to see a show out of order. Even if there were some multi-episode plot developments, you could pretty much ignore them and catch a well-developed complete story arc in one episode, or maybe two.

Battlestar Galactica (BSG) takes the opposite extreme -- basically, after the first season, no major plot line begins and completes within a single episode. It differs from soap operas in that there is clearly a planned story arc that occupies an entire season, and ultimately the whole show told one reasonably coherent story (sort of coherent, anyway).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were structured like a book series -- each season was a unit, with chapters (episodes) each with a self-contained plot or plot development, but in sequence they advanced a larger plot, and the larger plot was brought to completion at the end of the season in a conflict with some big nasty metaphor. Season to season, there was plot continuity but it was sort of incidental -- you didn't really need to catch up on prior seasons in order to figure out the players and the relationships, but it helped to stay current with the current season. Ultimately, Buffy and Angel each wrapped up the whole series with a topper that was pretty near impossible to follow (Angel killed all the main characters), but there was no sense that the precise form of the series' end was an inevitable consequence of the beginning -- each show had to end, but there were numerous alternative possible endings. BSG had a definite set of loose ends that had to be tied in order to end the series. 'Lost" I can't comment upon, as I have never watched it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 9, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

There are different ways to be "complex" when it comes to TV shows. For example, we may watch 30 Rock several times during the week because there's always some subtle line or sight gag we missed earlier.

Same with Flight of the Conchords and The Office. Oh... and How I Met Your Mother. And Futurama reruns.

That's what makes good comedy, in my opinion. Remember how Seinfeld used to have several story lines all at once that would come together, quite humorously, at the end? That was, what?... Fifteen years ago?

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Is the new BSG good? I watched about a dozen episodes of the original when it first came on, and didn't think much of it. Rightly or wrongly, I assumed (I know: never assume) the re-make wouldn't be any better. On your recommendation, I may have to give it a watch.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

When I heard the initial reports of David Carridine's passing, I considered the idea that he might have been an accidental autoeroticist, and, well, I suppose it does not work if there isn't some risk involved even for a man of 72 years of age. But what do I know?

I suppose there could be related comments involving Kung Fu grips and snatching pebbles from an old man's hand, but some might consider those tasteless. I know I would.

As far as TV shows go, if the entire universe becoming more complex, wouldn't the media have to do something to keep up with the increasing amount of information that comprises the universe (or multiverse, if you subscribe to Multiple Worlds-type theories)? I think TV shows have to, simply to keep up with the increasing complexity, though I suppose that there wouldn't necessarily need to be a commensurate increase in sophistication...

Back to Bruce Lee for a moment, he did play Kato on the old "Green Hornet" TV series. Being a crimefighting sidekick to a newspaper publisher wasn't so bad, and neither was driving the Black Beauty, IMO.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | June 9, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

shriek, don't feel bad. I became a great-aunt at 30. Didn't hurt my good looks any.

Posted by: Yoki | June 9, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The original BSG was incredibly bad. I watched the whole thing. The new BSG is/was quite good. Many of the characters behave inconsistently in the fashion that constitutes complexity in real people -- we do things we know we shouldn't, but we yield to the urge, anyway. Some of the characters behave inconsistently in a sense that seems simply out of character -- this may turn out to be a plot element. I was amused by the bitter complaints at Balticon last year, over how it turned into soap opera in season 2 (or was it 3?). These were people who tend to think that Heinlein was an excellent writer for characterization. They like their space opera hard-bitten and their heroes and villains unambiguous, unsentimental, and unexamined. BSG is not like that.

Also, on your behalf, I have taken up some concerns about the physics of the series with its science advisor. His response was "they won't listen to me, what makes you think they'll listen to you?" If you should find yourself getting Kevin Grazier to sign a copy of "The Physics of Battlestar Galactica" for you, tell him that Tim sent you.

I can tell you that some of the more obnoxious plot holes (like, "if the Earth colonists all went off this way and got lost, how come we know anything about how they got to Earth?") get sorta plugged in the last season. More or less. There are other loose ends that never get tied, nor holes plugged. Sometimes, you just can't get no satisfaction.

And finally: for a guy like you, Mudge, I feel pretty certain that Number 6 is reason enough to watch the show.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 9, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I've heard some suggest that BSG is like the old Babylon 5 in that the episodes move the Big Overall Story Arc along. Only BSG has more retina-detaching camera work and fewer aliens.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | June 9, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Surely not Yoki. I'm still on the right side of 50, but not for long Mudge. I was born within a week of Sean Penn. I do have have his good looks and never dated Madonna either. Rats.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

SCC Do NOT... that should be quite obvious.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly, BSG has exactly zero aliens (at least, it seems that way until the end...). Babylon 5 has an extravagant number of them. While I have a certain fondness for B5, BSG has much better actors and production values. MUCH better. Each show embodies a different reasonable solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 9, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The coolest thing about the original BSG is that the Ceylons sounded kinda like Peter Frampton using a talk box.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 9, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I am speculating here that Number 6 is a person? And quite probably a person of a certain genderical persuasion widely known to be to my liking? I may have to add Number 6 to my fondness for Thirteen ("House"). I was never that fond of 7 of 9, however. Just not a Borg kinda guy, I guess. OK, I'll have to watch the thing.

Upon reading Mr. Johnson essay, I may have done him a disservice. He actually does bring up soap operas, the groundbreaking of "Hill Street Blues" in 1981, and even cites references going all the way back to "Middlemarch," of all things. So if if isn't really asserting that "24" and other modern shows are groundbreaking in some way, what exactly *is* he asserting? Ummm, er...having read it, I still don't know. Except that he has a new book out on the subject, of which this is an excerpt, and so he's gotta sell the book somehow. I admit to reading his piece (five pages) pretty quickly, but I really couldn't find a "money graf" that cogently explained his thesis. So, basically, I really don't know what the hell he was talking about.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

BSG and Red Dwarf have a lot in common:

(1) The only signs of intelligent life in the galaxy are human.
(2) Each involves an epic trans-galactic journey.
(3) Each is epitomized by a giant titular starship (except that RD wasn't SUPPOSED to be a starship, it was supposed to be in-system).
(4) Each has robots, some of whom are dangerous and some who join the team.
(5) Each has a mix of advanced and primitive technology.
(6) In each, humanity's greatest enemy is itself.

Gosh, the list just goes on and on.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 9, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Shriek, one of my children commented on how old I am - a friends grandmother is only two years older than I (just four years shy of 50). The advantage to having kids late - I will be older (fingers crossed) when I become a grandmother.

My mom on the other hand was an aunt at 8, great aunt in her early twenties? She the youngest by a couple of decades.

All that matters is how young you feel.

Posted by: dmd2 | June 9, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, I think a lot of those similarities are shared by Shakespeare.

And Star Trek.

I would hope that BSG would have better production values than B5, given that it was produced over a decade later.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | June 9, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Johnson *does* have a thesis, which is that "Pop culture is good for you." I'm not sure what the profundity of this is.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

We just discovered that through the magic of Tivo combined with Netflix, we can queue up movies online to watch instantly on our Tivo HD box.

So... right now in the Netflix folder is the first season of Star Trek, remastered in HD.

Last night we watched the first episode, "The Man Trap," which featured 1) the early death of an unknown crew member on the planet surface and 2) the first utterance of "Jim, he's dead." Or was it "He's dead, Jim"..? I'm not exactly sure. Either way, we were very happy to have heard it.

We want to get the kids in on a Star Trek Season One Marathon soon. I just don't think they appreciate it the way they should. Yannow... 'kids these days,' and all that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Trap

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I've got you all beat. I came into this world an aunt, was a great-aunt at 15, and now am a great-great aunt. (My younger brother was seven when our great-nephew was born and was punished that week for going too far from home on his bicycle). This is what happens when one parent is a generation older than the other.

Posted by: slyness | June 9, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

An interesting piece a friend just e-mailed me: 25 Things About to Become Extinct. It comes from this site (scroll down a bit to find it): http://www.schargel.com/2009/03/

Each item below contains a brief write-up when you read the whole thing. I think a fair number of Boodlers will be especially upset by No. 8.

25. The U.S. Post Office
24. Yellow Pages
23. Classified Ads
22. Movie Rental Stores
21. Dial-up Internet Access
20. Phone Landlines
19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
18. VCRs
17. Ash Trees
16. Ham Radio
15. The Swimming Hole
14. Answering Machines
13. Cameras That Use Film
12. Incandescent Bulbs
11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys
10. The Milkman
9. Hand-Written Letters
8. Wild Horses
7. Personal Checks
6. Drive-in Theaters
5. Mumps & Measles
4. Honey Bees
3. News Magazines and TV News
2. Analog TV
1. The Family Farm


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

As someone who spent 20 years in Direct Mail and a recent afternoon at the Post Office in the Bulk Mail office, I can say I don't think it's going anywhere anytime soon.

I also think the term "classified ads" should have been "newspaper classifieds," just like he didn't say "the news" when he said, "News Magazines and TV News."

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes, number 8...but I still rely on a fair number of those things. Sigh.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 9, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

crabs, horses, newspapers and swimming holes?? Noooooo!

Posted by: Yoki | June 9, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Mudge got all excited because he thought Number 4 said "Honey-dos."

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Incandescent bulbs? They'll have to develop a compact fluorescent that actually turms itself on by -40C/F in less than 5 minutes.

The girls listened to Disney's Merlin on the VCR last night. As long as the Big Ears keep their predatory pricing up for their DVD I'll hold on to my tapes. You know, for the grand-kids.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Jon Stewart did a great bit about CNN last night, and how much they're depending on viewers' comments and tweets. Paraphrasing badly, CNN doesn't tell you the news, they just want to hang out with you!

Posted by: seasea1 | June 9, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Very laughing, TBG.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else having trouble seeing the bottom half of the WaPo front page? I can't see any of the usual boxes for Style, etc., nor any of the chats and all that stuff below that section, despite repeated resets.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

A giant BSG discussion going on and I'm stuck in meetings. Dang this working for a living nonsense. Yes, there are NO aliens in BSG. Nor are there laser beams. The only concession to science fiction conventions are faster than light speed travel and biological based robots (if such a thing makes sense).

And which 6 would be right for mudge, Caprica6, Head6, Pegasus6? There are so many to choose from.

I just watched the first two episodes of Red Dwarf on my Netflix/Roku combo. Now I have a subtext to watch the rest of the series through.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

The number 17 in my front yard isn't going extinct fast enough for my wife who hates it.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I've got a huge no.17 used as an air conditioning device. It provides shade for the four 48"x48" windows on the west side of the house And although this one still looks good there are a couple on the street that don't look too healthy already. Bleeping emerald borers have arrived.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 9, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Have I mentioned that No. 6 is a small town Alberta gal?

Isn't the drive-in already gone? I don't think you could run one now - don't most vehicles' headlights come on automatically now?

I also thought the milkman was already extinct, though I note that his particular lifestyle may have allowed an evolutionary niche preventing his outright extinction.

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

We're still months away from Talk Like A Pirate Day, but it should be noted that the Pirate Party has won a seat in the EU parliament:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/yaaarrrrr-swedens-pirate-party-wins-seat/article1173283/

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Ha, engelmann. In the Giant Faux Pas category, I once was dining with relatives of my husband's. They were talking about marriage or some such, I don't know, and I made some sort of milkman comment. Turns out they had had just such an incident in their marriage and it was not a happy time. I found this out later, of course, after inquiring about the sudden icy chill at table. Then I told Ivansdad he must tell me Every Little Thing about his relatives before any future visits.

There are still drive-ins hereabouts, and very proud of it. The technology has improved but I don't know what they do about the headlights. Maybe the cars don't have to be on.

Thanks to ScienceTim and Mudge for the further explication of Johnson and the Television Show as Continuing Story. Nice list.

Ivansdad and the Boy liked Battlestar Galactica but it was way too late for me to get involved in it. I remember being impressed by Babylon5. Not, lord knows, for the production values, but because it was the only thing around which seemed clearly designed on a long-term story plan.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 9, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Headlight problem? There's duct tape in the solution here somewhere.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 9, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like my day:

"keep his priestly serenity going, and tolerate the insults and egregious behavior of the bad guys, but that, by the end of the episode, he was going to have no choice but to roundhouse kick someone."

Alas, I have located another believer in faith-based arithmetic.

As for BSG, count me in the same category as Mudge. Wasn't a fan of the original, so never bothered to check out the remake.

I still own (and use) many of the items on the extinction list. I am such an old fud.

Posted by: Raysmom | June 9, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

engelmann:

http://www.bengies.com/

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Of all the things on the pending extinction list, I think only four really bother me: crabs, horses, bees and family farms. I wish there were drive-ins close by, but I haven't been to one in maybe 30 or 35 years, so it's not exactly a big loss. I'd go if we had one, though.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 9, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

There's a nice drive-in theatre in Stephens City, Va, near Winchester. Worth an overnight trip to enjoy a movie there. Their website is updated, although it was clearly designed and created in 1996...

http://www.user.shentel.net/ccrkcr/drivein.html

Also.. best drive-in ever is the Mustang Drive-In in Picton, Ontario. You gotta see it to believe it.

Posted by: -TBG- | June 9, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

There was a resurgence of milkmen in the '80s, at least, and I met one. That was the creepiest dude I ever met. I thought it was Anthony Perkins evil twin.

The fast food hamburger research continues. I think it's going to make me ill. But it's in the name of science, and the better homemade burger.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 9, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

One of my neighbors still gets milk delivered, but I'd have thought that milkmen (milkpersons?) went extinct long ago.
http://www.smithbrothersfarms.com/smith-bros-history.php

There was an indie movie called Expiration Date which used the Smith Brothers Dairy prominently in the plot line. It's pretty good.

I had an old relative who used to pay her bills in person because she didn't trust the mail. I have always paid my bills by check using the mail - so now I feel like her, because I don't trust the automatic payments. And my kid still hasn't cashed the check I sent him at Christmas because checks are so foreign to him (I did ask if he'd prefer PayPal, or something). Sigh.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 9, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I watched some episodes of B5, but the acting was so bad as to be unbearable. The security chief was a Bruce Willis, knockoff. The lady pilot's Wussian accent would make Natasha wince. One whole alien species looked like a cross between Bela Lugosi and the extras in Rocky Horror Picture Show.

And when you fire your lead character and replace him with Bruce Boxleitner to raise the acting level, you are in big trouble.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

You should have seen the B5 episode with that psycho betazoid from Voyager playing a monk, Yellojkt.

That was quite well acted and written-- one of my favorites.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

And the Narn ambassador G'Kar (the reptile-skinned guy) was actually decently acted. One of my long-term favorite characters.

But yes, a lot of regulars were kind of wooden in their acting.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The original Battlestar Galactica was a thinly veiled retelling of the Mormon founding tale with Lorne Greene as Joseph Smith.

Comparing the BSG:TOS to Ron Moore's BSG is like comparing Batman the TV series with latest two Batman movies, only more so. Orders of magnitude in quality difference.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

But hey, any show that gave Walter Koenig another chance couldn't be all that bad, right?

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 9, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

The most brilliant strategy the modern Star Treks had was in hiring experienced but hungry Shakespearean stage actors to the lead parts and surrounding them with competent but cheap character actors.

Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, and Kate Mulgrew were all obscure but highly talented yeoman actors.

And then for Enterprise, they went with name-geek recognition with Scott Bakula who was one of the many, many wheels that fell of the bus. That and adding lyrics to the theme song. And the sexy Vulcan chick. And need I go on...

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

At least they gave Koenig plenty of scenery to chew. He never had a chance when he had to compete with Shatner on the deck.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"Kind of wooden", Wilbrod? It was a veritable forest, right there on your TV screen.

In the complex-story department, let's bring up Twin Peaks again. Shifting plot lines, continuing stories, changing characters, mysterious apparitions, an owl, a fish, a dancing dwarf who talked backwards, a beautiful woman who whispered - ah. Maybe I need to watch the whole thing from the beginning again. It could be a family bonding experience.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 9, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the actor who played G'Kar WAS on Star Trek: The Next generation a few times,as Romulan Cmdr. Tomalak

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andreas_Katsulas

R.I.P. the most decent actor on Babylon 5.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I was actually thinking more of Home Depot, Ivansmom.

Forests imply they had actual life in their acting.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of name-geek recognition, what's with Lucy Lawless? She must really have a thing for Fantasy/Sci-fi conventions to sign on for BSG after enduring the Xena fans.

I think Brigham Young was the trekker, not Smith? And that in turn was a reenactment of Exodus.

I hope we're not scaring off Mudge from giving the series a try. Normal people watch it too. Honest.

Posted by: engelmann | June 9, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, never watched Twin Peaks.

Now, Northern Exposure was a show that I enjoyed way back then.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention a damn fine cup of coffee.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 9, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I have Twin Peaks somewhere on VHS tapes. It was quite amazing at the time, and of course, the Pacific NW quirkiness just made it all the better. I remember it as the TV show I could not read a book at the same time as I watched. My sister loved it too, and we spent her next visit running around to all the spots - the Mar-T restaurant, etc. My kid was appalled. But the first season was the best...not sure how well it's held up. I should see if I can even locate the tapes.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 9, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Seasea, I think it is on DVD now, at least in part. Some cable channel runs episodes of Twin Peaks too. We've caught part of a few and it is just as weird and amazing today as it was then. I still wonder how it got on network TV.

Wilbrod, Northern Exposure was nothing like it, except for being in the Frozen North. Northern Exposure was like Twin Peaks lite, all quirky endearing characters and interesting little plot lines. There was no flat-out weirdness, nothing disturbing, no insane and possibly supernatural bad guy, no disturbance of time, space or dimension, and of course no gruesome murder to set it all off. Boy what a great show.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 9, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Now I'm girl crushing on Ivansmom even more than usual. If I were articulate and really really intelligent, I would have said all those things about Twin Peaks.

Posted by: Yoki | June 9, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Excellent point, yellojkt. Babylon 5 would have been a lot different with talented lead actors. Probably would have been a good franchise.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

BTW...

Mount up, fellas, and let's go lasso some new boodlin' at the new kit over yonder.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 9, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Ivansmom, I'm sure Twin Peaks is on DVD now...but it's good motivation for me to organize all my obsolete VHS tapes. Comcast is making us here convert to digital to keep receiving channels above 30 - we had to have the cable guy install the boxes for us. With the upshot being that I can no longer record on VHS channels unless I'm watching it. Which is not such a great loss, what with VHS going extinct and all. Plus I rarely watch what I record...And yes, you summed up the difference between Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure exactly right...although I grew to like Northern Exposure, but it was a different thing entirely.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 9, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Mudge as a baseball guy I am shocked you wouldn't mind the destruction of the ash trees, my house is surrounded by ash trees - large ones, quite a number on the street should they all go we will start to look like a new development with few trees. So many Ash trees in this area both in urban and forested areas.

We still have a drive in near by - updated not too many years ago.

Posted by: dmd2 | June 9, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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