Aug. 23--So now I am binge-watching "Orange Is the New Black" and enjoying every odd, immersive second of it. I believe this is the first time I've ever binge-watched anything (unless you count Sunday football), and the experience is complex and more than a little unsettling.
First, the show. "Orange Is the New Black" is, as you almost certainly know by now, a character-driven drama set in a minimum-security prison in Connecticut. It has a large cast of extremely good actresses, with a few men making an appearance as strictly peripheral characters.
But the topic of the show, insofar as it has one, is how families and friendships grow or fall apart in the prison environment. The relationships are complicated and convincing. There's a fair amount of sex in the opening episodes; not so much later on.
Some of the jokes feel as if they spent too much time in the writers' room; the show is best when the characters are just talking. Such a variety of voices and accents; it's really a phenomenal bit of TV writing.
We've been watching two or three episodes a night for four days now. For real practitioners, what I'm doing hardly qualifies as binge-watching at all. But I'm getting my feet wet here, and so far, so good.
Tonight we will finish the first season -- the show has already been renewed by Netflix for a second season. Netflix is streaming it to customers; "Orange Is the New Black" is not available on broadcast or cable or satellite TV. With every episode at your fingertips, you can watch as many at a time as you like.
Plus, no messy DVD cases to worry about. It all lives in the cloud, and we wander into the cloud to get it. Or something like that. It's here to stay, though -- services like Hulu Plus and Roku and Acorn TV are what the early adopters are talking about.
Meaning you'll need ever more stuff to watch all the stuff. But also: You can binge-watch.
When you're binge-watching, the characters stay with you. You can see someone on the street and think they look like a friend of yours but, oops, that's not a friend, that's a character from a TV show. Late at night, as you fall asleep, your own personal life and the lives of the characters become intertwined, and suddenly you are hanging around Red's prison kitchen looking for a little extra food.
I read an article about prison reform the other day, and my first thought was how it would affect the women in, no wait, those are fictional women. They don't actually live in prison at all.
I had this experience once before, when I became intensely involved playing a computer game called "Myst." I would look at something in the real world -- a manhole cover, say -- and my forefinger would twitch as I tried to click on it. Art and reality blend; it's kind of fun when it isn't kind of scary.
In other news: Elmore Leonard taught everyone how to write. He was like a skilled arborist, pruning back his prose so you could see the outlines of the dialogue, the cut and thrust of intent and desire. His characters often didn't have a clue, but they were in the surest hands in the world.
His favorite movie of the ones made from his novels -- and a lot of stinkers were made; no one could get the music right -- was "Out of Sight," which is right up there with "Get Shorty" as everybody's favorite. He liked it because the characters never laughed at each other. Leonard's characters didn't know they were funny; they were trying to be sincere or charming or menacing.
Leonard died this week at age 87. He worked right up until weeks before his death; he kept his prose lean and his stories unsentimental; he made his living doing what he enjoyed doing. We should all have such a line in our obits.
Not only that: Chad Gaudin, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, was put on the disabled list with carpal tunnel syndrome. One possible culprit -- Gaudin takes meticulous notes on every start he makes, and goes back and studies those notes between pitching days.
So is Gaudin the first victim of Big Data Overload in the major leagues? Did compulsive mousing lead to his sad fate? I thought that's why we had video games, to toughen up those fast-twitch muscles. Why else would we be shooting digital terrorists with our digital cannons?
Last came a little feeble squeaking voice ("That's Bill," thought Alice). "Well, I hardly know -- No more, thank ye; I'm better now -- but I'm a deal too flustered to tell firstname.lastname@example.org.
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