Saturday, September 11, 2004

A Bit More on Books I Read as a Child

Looking over the post I made on books a while back, I realise I left out some of my favourite books I read as a child. Among these was The Secret Hideout by John Peterson and its sequel Enemies of the Secret Hideout. These books concerned the Viking Club, a club formed by a group of neighbourhood boys. I remember that my brother and I formed out own Viking Club--yes, I was a member of a secret society at age 10! Peterson also wrote a book on making one's own codes that my brother owned. He was also the author of the famous Littles books, although for whatever reason I never read any of those.

I also read a good deal of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I believe I read some of the Tarzan books, but I really liked the John Carter of Mars series. I believe I also read some of his Pellucidar series about a civilisation at the middle of the earth (not too different from Mars, strangely enough).

Arthur Conan Doyle was also among my favourite authors. I read several of the Sherlock Holmes books, as well as The Lost World. Like most boys, I was entralled by dinosaurs, so The Lost World was right up my alley.

Edgar Allen Poe was also high on my reading lists. In fact, I think he was my first real exposure to horror literarure. I still remember "The Telltale Heart" creeping me out!

Friday, September 10, 2004

116th Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair

Well, the 116th Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair started yesterday. The first one was held in 1888 to honour the original settlers of Randolph and Macon Counties. I am not absolutely certain, but I think that it may have been the first of its kind to be held anywhere. Originally, it was also held in different towns. Several of the earliest Reunions were held in Jacksonville. At least two were held in Macon. Finally, in 1896, it was held in the Randolph County Seat, Huntsville. It was held here for the next several years until 1901. In 1902 it returned to Huntsville and in 1905 it was decided that from then on the Reunion would be held in Huntsville. I'm not sure when Macon County was excluded from the name of the Reunion, but it was probably sometime after it moved permanently to Huntsville. I do know that at one time Randolph County had a fair in the summer that was eventually merged with the Old Settlers Reunion, hence the name it bears today--"the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair."

As a child the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair was one of the premeire events of my year. I remember that they would release classes early on both Thursday and Friday. Afterwards, the days would be filled with various events, such as the Pet Parade and so on. There were always several booths with either games or vendors selling their wares. And we usually had a carnival come into town. Saturday evening there was the parade, always the high point of the fair.

It was either when I was in sixth grade or I was in junior high that the school system stopped closing early for Old Settlers. I have never forgiven the school system for that, as it seems to me that Old Settlers has never been quite the same. Each passing year it seems as if there are fewer and fewer booths and most events are crowded into Thursday and Friday nights and most of Saturday. I have a feeling if the kids weren't in school, then there would be a lot more going on.

I went downtown yesterday and there was a total of four booths, excluding food vendors, set up. Today was even worse. There were only about two. And this year we have no carnival. As sad as it is to me, it seems as if the Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair is fading with each passing year. I suppose in some ways this may have been going on for a long time. Old timers tell me that when they were young, Old Settlers was even bigger than when I was a child!

Anyhow, I honestly believe that someone should try to revive the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair. To me it is important to the County. First, I think it is nice to honour those who have lived in this county for a long time, those who have kept the county running through thick and through thin. Second, I think it helps unify Randolph County. It is a tradition that has gone on for 116 years now, the majority of those years it has taken place in Randolph County. As such it also gives us a sense of history. Third, I think it is healthy for any place to have the occasional celebration. If it wasn't for fall fairs such as the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair, we would lack any kind of celebration in the fall (Labour Day certainly doesn't count for much). The harvest festivals of ancient times served an important purpose. They helped people relax and have fun and blow off steam after the gruelling work of summer and the harvest. Fall fairs serve the same purpose. They give people a break from the workaday world. If we lose Old Settlers, we will have lost anohter means of relaxing and having fun.

Anyhow, I am hoping that tomorrow goes better than today and yesterday. I am hoping that we have more vendors and a bigger crowd. It is disappointing to see Old Settlers so poorly attended. I am afraid that if attendance drops off too much, it might cease to exist entirely.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

The Death of the Sitcom?

With both Fraiser and Friends having ended their run, I have been reading that the sitcom is dying, if not already dead. I don't believe it for a minute. After all, this is something I have heard before.

I will admit, that the new crop of sitcoms debuting this season do not seem very promising to me. I do not have high hopes for Joey, the spin off from Friends. While I do believe that actor Matt LeBlanc has talent, the character of Joey is not one that will allow him to display it. For me Joey was always the most boring character on Friends. He seemed to be the token fool on the cast, with not a lot of depth or complexity. On an emsemble cast such as Friends, Joey could be quite funny, but only because he had other people to play off of. I'm not sure that as a lead character he will be able to anchor a show. The rest of the characters are going to have to both be very interesting and they are going to have to be able to act as straight men for Joey. Of course, beyond my concerns over whether Joey could hold his own on a show, there is the fact that the writing team being Friends is the same one behind Joey. Given the fact that I think the quality of Friends declined significantly in its last several years, I don't have high hopes for the quality of scripts on Joey.

As to other sitcoms debuting this season, some of them boast big names, but none of them seem very interesting. Center of the Universe features John Goodman, Ed Asner, Olympia Dukakis, and Jean Smart. Unfortunately, the show does not seem particularly original. Unfortunately, the concept does not seem very original. It concerns a couple (Goodman and Smart) who have problems because of their off the wall family (Goodman's parents Asner and Dukakis). Despite the collective talent of the cast, I don't think the series hold much promise. Listen Up features Jason Alexander as a sportswriter/TV host. A lot of the series centres on his homelife. The series is based on Tony Kornheiser's Washington Post columns, which I have heard are very funny (I've never read them myself). And Jason Alexander is very talented; he was by far the best actor on Seinfeld. Unfortunately, the concept behind the series, despite being based on Kornheiser's columns, reminds me a lot of Everybody Loves Raymond and Dave's World. In other words, it doesn't sound particularly original. ABC has re-arranged their TGIF line up, adding Complete Savages. The show centres on Keith Carradine as the father of five sons. Now I do have to give it marks for centring on a single father, something we have not seen in some time on television. The problem is that the show is on ABC, the network that has given us Hope and Faith and My Wife and Kids. I have to seriously wonder about the quality of the show.

As to returning sitcoms, the only one I really like is Scrubs, although it can be inconsistent at times. I do think Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, and The George Lopez Show are quality shows, although they aren't really my cup of tea. As to the rest, I am still a bit puzzled as to how most of ABC's sitcoms and most of CBS's sitcoms have managed to survive. Indeed, Still Standing seems to me to simply be The King of Queens with kids.

The outlook for sitcoms is then not exactly cheery this season from my point of view. But that does not mean the format is dying or dead as many in the media would have us believe. In the early Eighties many thought the sitcom was dead. It was at that point that Cheers and The Cosby Show revitalised the format. After both The Cosby Show and Cheers left the air, many thought the sitcom would go the way of the dinosaur. It was then that Friends and Frasier debuted, while Seinfeld finally got the recognition it deserved. Even if there are no breakout hits this season, I suspect there will be next season or the season after that. The sitcom format has been around for a combined total of 75 years on both radio and television. At no point in that 75 years have there been no sitcoms on the air. For better or worse, the sitcom will survive.