How is it that Fox can offer up both crackpot, right-wing, pseudo-professional news programs and comedies like The Simpsons and Arrested Development in the same breath? I haven't a clue, but I do know that Arrested is one of the cleverest, funniest, most original shows I've seen in a while. (Granted, I don't watch much TV, and don't have cable, so that's a relative measure to be sure. But still.)

Arrested Development is smart, hilarious, and just inappropriate enough to be amusing without being crude or abrasive. (The most recent episode, for example, had the lead character, Michael, and his niece singing a karaoke duet to "Afternoon Delight" and realizing partway through the error they'd made; to top things off, Michael's twin sister and his son repeated the gaffe later in the program.)

It turns cultural references on their ear: when the matriarch of the Bluth clan is asked by a Michael Moore-esque documentarian whether she'd be willing to send her son Buster to the Army to fight in Iraq, she looks at Buster and, without missing a beat, answers a hearty "Yes!" It pokes subtle fun at the Blue Man Group, expensive facial creams, and professional magicians. It leaves almost no character unscathed.

Best of all, it's pulled me through some Sunday nights that would have otherwise been unbearably crappy and depressing, and has frequently made me laugh in spite of myself. For that alone, I am a huge fan.

Guided by Wire
I've known Neko Case as part of The New Pornographers for a while now, and knew she recorded several albums on her own, but it wasn't until this past week that I took a listen.

There's no way to describe my reaction without sounding trite, so I won't try. She blew me away. The first song I heard, on the Noise Pop compilation cd, was "Set Out Running," which made me sit still in front of my cd player, stopped dead: she was singing my life ("If I knew heartbreak was coming/I would've set out running/'Cause I just can't shake this feeling/That I'm nothing in your eyes").

On that song alone, I went out and bought one of her albums, Furnace Room Lullaby, and immediately fell further in love. As I'm not usually one for alt-country (or any sort of country, with the possible exception of Patsy Cline and some Willie Nelson ballads), that's saying something. Not that I should've been surprised, though; Neko Case's voice and lyrical smarts could do wonders for any genre.

The second track on the album is called "Guided by Wire," and as best I can tell, it's about the power of certain songs to pull you through when you need it most--sort of High Fidelity in demi-reverse. Part of the refrain is "Someone singing my life back to me," which I hear two ways: first, as in a song mirroring your experiences (see above); and second, as in a song being like an IV drip that, little by little, dulls what ails you and brings you back from the edge.

So Furnace Room Lullaby is coming with me back east, and will come with me on my runs, and will be in my ears when I need a dose of that curative.

Finally, while washing wine glasses and wiping down my kitchen counter late Saturday night, I felt a pang of loneliness, remembering that the last time I'd hosted a party like this, G. had been here, and had walked up behind me to say, "Babe, leave the dishes for tomorrow and come to bed."

But I let that pass, and thought instead (with more than a twinge of awe) how lucky I am that I'd just spent several hours with friends ranging from those I've known since my earliest days in San Francisco to those I met just this year, and how amazing it was to see them all interact and blend and laugh. What made me almost well up, though, was the realization that if I could somehow get all of my friends--those here in SF, those back east, those in Europe and Japan--in my house at the same time, and if I could add my family to the mix, there would be absolutely no room to move. Every room would be full.

That image--my house overflowing with people--was (and is) a sweet and precious reminder that though I may be lonely, I am not alone.

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