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Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Friday, June 04, 2004
If there is a finer country singer than Neko Case, I haven't heard her. Country music, like all American music, is marked by the landscape. That point really came to life while I was in New Orleans over the weekend. The city is defined by the Mississippi River; the image of a poor trumpet player belting out "The Old Rugged Cross" while standing beside the giant snake of a river never leaves your mind. It's not just a tourist trap, either. I've never failed to see a poor jazzman on the sidewalk. Maybe that's what Birmingham needs. A river, or at least a lake nearby.

I've spent the last four years calling Birmingham and Tuscaloosa home, sort of a dual-citizenship. Birmingham is still home, but I really think the one thing that's missing is a river. Tuscaloosa has one. Maybe that's why I don't like Atlanta. There's no river in the town. That's really all Birmingham needs to make it complete. It's exciting to watch the downtown area grow, and see the old neighborhoods in Homewood and Mountain Brook stay fresh. And in Tuscaloosa, no matter how silly the City Council is or how bumbling the University Trustees, you can always sit on the banks of the Black Warrior. It's a good place for the best things in life: cold Milo's Sweet Tea, grilled Italian sausages and sunburnt friends.

Speaking of Friends, we're about a month removed the from the final episode. It's time enough for a clear head, and so I think the show was good to have ended now. The show has received its share of criticism - too much promiscuity, carefree lives, simple-minded characters. All valid points, mind you, but it's not like we were watching the show to see if Joey would sleep with someone. It was about those moments of awkwardness on a date or the pain of a breakup or the wit of a best friend - however cheesy, that's why we watched. Maybe a smart writer could take the hint. We don't need the endless sleepovers to keep us watching. In fact, it's a distraction. Just write a show about honest people; their lives and their loves. We don't need the Greenwich Village sex-capades. People are willing to watch an honest show. Like Frasier.

Kelsey Grammar's character was long-lived and with good reason. The show was pure gold. Maybe I'd rather watch Friends, but Frasier was undeniably the better show. It's greatest strength was that it lacked the silliness of Monica and Chandler. Daphne might have been dumb, but she was not as crazy as Phoebe. It was an important show, because for once, writers wrote up to their audience, not down. And lo and behold, the people responded. Would that Hollywood would treat us this was more often. As it stands, we're left with little but reality television, ethno-centric sitcoms on the WB, cheesy teen dramas and family-friendly fare that no one could possibly find entertaining.

Maybe it's for the best. I'll restrict my television watching to sports and the news, and spend the rest of the time getting to know people better, reading, writing and taking pictures. I might learn to play the guitar. Still, there was something profoundly American about spending one or two nights a week watching a show about people like you and laughing. It might be a while before it happens again, if it happens at all. Well thank goodness for Nick at Nite and syndication. I can get my Friends and Frasier fix at 6 pm, eat dinner and make it to the coffee shop before the baristas shut her down. It's a win-win situation for all of us.
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