I’ve mentioned before that because I’ve spent most of my life in academia and am married to a public schoolteacher on top of that, Clan Mondo’s rhythms are more closely aligned to the academic calendar than the traditional one. As such, there’s always a sense at the Mid-Century Mondohaus that the New Year begins in August. Mrs. M starts with her kids tomorrow, and my first day of classes will be Tuesday. So Happy New Year to everyone.
I spent a chunk of the weekend watching Disenchanted, the new Netflix animated series from Matt Groening and some of the other folks behind The Simpsons and Futurama. This series is set in a quasi-medieval sword-and-sorcery fantastic world, so it should pretty much be in my wheelhouse, and I did watch the entire run over Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Still, the series isn’t quite everything I hoped it would be.
Part of it, of course, is that we’re used to the styles of the creators’ previous work and we’re harder to surprise/amuse with the background jokes and minor characters. And ever since the development of the Comedy of Humours, we’ve learned to recognize types and subtypes pretty quickly. For example, we can look at King Zog and see that he’s a version of the irascible Yosemite Sam, or more tellingly, that Luci (a demon whose design reminds me of an Edward Gorey drawing) owes a lot to Futurama‘s Bender. Ingenue Elfo’s crush on lead character Bean also echoes the relationship between Futurama‘s Fry and Leela a little too closely. So it’s harder for the show to give us the essential unexpectedness at the root of comedy.
The show also has a problem, I think, in that it’s obvious the creators are setting up a multi-season story arc. This goes beyond the obvious cliffhangers at the season’s end. We’re seeing characters who are clearly Up To Something(s), and while we trust that eventually stuff will be made clear, we may become impatient to see how the subplots (and Plots) fit together.
Having said all that, I did watch the entire season, so there are clearly some good qualities in play as well. I think some of the best moments in the series came in the segments that went full Fractured Fairy Tale. There’s a Hansel & Gretel element in one episode that had me laughing really hard, and that built enough goodwill on my part that when that setting is revisited a few episodes later, I still smiled. Likewise, the episodes that involves the goings-on in Elfo’s home of Elfland (think Keebler, not Tolkien) are a couple of my favorites, and included the power to surprise.
Watching the episodes, I smiled frequently, and got a few outbursts of laughter each episode that were loud enough for the Spawn to notice from upstairs. And really, what more can you ask from a bunch of funny drawings? So Disenchanted isn’t dazzling yet, but it’s amusing and it has potential. I’m looking forward to the next season.
Had a nice ego-boost on Friday. My department chair swung by the office and told me about meeting with an incoming freshpeep who plans a double major in English and History. It seems he visited several campuses (as one often does) and sat in on classes. On his visit to Mondoville, he came to one of mine and he told my chair that attending my class made him decide that this was the school for him. Thank you, sir — I look forward to teaching you in the future.
Later that afternoon, I got an e-mail from a student who had been in my FroshComp class a couple of years back. She asked if I’d be willing to make room for her in one of my classes, because she really wants to have me as a prof again. As it happens, she’s a really good student and a great kid, so I’m happy to add her. It’s nice, though, to know that even for students outside the major, I may be worth a return visit.
Not long ago, I noted the ugliness going on in the U of Maryland’s football program. I’m pleased to note that I’m not alone. Here at Mondoville, I’ve known several members of our training and medical staff over the years, and I’ve always been impressed by their dedication and professionalism. Similarly, we’ve tried to stay conscientious in caring for athletes — our concussion protocols tend to be stricter than average, for example — and I’ve seen no evidence of the sort of “regulatory capture” of our medical staff that seems to have happened at UMD.
In that vein, I was pleased to see a letter from our president and our athletic director that came out this week. Among other things, they wrote:
In terms of student athletes, it is our policy that the final approval of a student-athlete to participate in practice or games rests exclusively with our sports medicine staff and team doctors. Our coaches will always adhere to the guidance from our medical staff. Our sports medicine staff is held accountable by our team doctors.
And by the way — our Athletic Training team even has its own twitter account. They’re good folks — if you tweet, give them a visit, and even a follow!
And speaking of visits, I’m looking forward to a trip to St. Petersburg in a few weeks for the 2018 installment of Bouchercon. Here’s a bit about my panel:
I’d love to see you there!
I’m also looking forward to picking up the sticks for the first time in a long while over the next couple of weeks, so there’s a new year dawning on that front as well. And as is my habit, I’ll give you a bit of music to tide you over til my next installment.
I have a couple of songs that have been running through my head this week, so I’ll share them with you. The first one is from Canadian garage revivalists the Maynards, and should move you at the very least to twist and frug with depraved abandon. From 2005, this is “Break Out the Make Out.”
And here’s another one from a few years back. Ida Maria Børli Sivertsen performs under her first two names, and is involved in the Norwegian rock scene that isn’t black metal. This track’s pre-chorus was lifted from the Banana Splits’ theme song, but the lyrics have a decidedly different, um, thrust. From 2008, this is “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.”
As for me, I’m just happy that you visit at all. See you soon!