Having completed my December resolution to make a blog post every day, I promptly took two days off after December ended. I guess that shows my resolutions have some value! So maybe I should work on some New Year’s ones. I’m skittish about setting things down in an actual list yet, but I guess I could start by resolving to touch base with this blog at least once a week. And also, by the end of this week, I resolve to write about some other resolutions — the reading and writing-related ones, probably, since otherwise I have the standard “Join a gym and actually go to it, pay my bills on time” sort of thing going.

Anyway, while I wasn’t blogging, I had a pleasant and relaxing four-day weekend, which I turned into the kind of vacation that I’ve been saying I wanted to take forever — reading and catching up with some TV shows and getting at least one room of my house in presentable shape for company to come over (I moved a little over two months ago, so “I just moved” is becoming less of an excuse; I mean, I have had people over but of necessity they’ve been limited to ‘people I don’t mind seeing my house like this.’

So the living room looks okay now, and meanwhile I’ve watched some BBC Shakespeare and a fair amount of the Doctor Who and Burn Notice marathons (short observations — the Doctor’s ex-boyfriend is kind of a dick, and Michael Westen sure gets beat up a lot). Tonight, I tried another episode of Generation Kill but it turns out the amount of attention that show requires to be able to follow what is happening is a lot different from the amount of attention those other shows do so I’ll probably watch it again.

One thing I’ve found blogging to be good for is making connections between the various things I’m reading/viewing/thinking about at any given time. So I’m spinning out themes in my head, like how the overwhelming sense I get out of Generation Kill is anger at what happens when incompetent people are in charge of important things; the series is a somewhat (but perhaps not very?) fictionalized story about a group of Marines in the Iraq War, and the overwhelming impression is of people who can’t do good even when they want to, because the system failures are so massive that they won’t and can’t respond to individual effort.

The interesting symmetry with that show is the novel Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell — which on its surface is a fairly slight crime novel about a former hitman in conflict with the Mafia. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of the story — it’s clever but I don’t know that it’s anything besides clever, and includes the kind of love interest that men (and I do mean men) who write crime novels need to stop writing about as soon as possible (ie, the kinds who only exist for the effect that they have on the men; I mean, I understand the concept of a plot device but at least pretend you care that the woman has something between her ears). That said, the book is still interesting because it takes place at a badly-run urban hospital, and the narrator is a medical resident whose superiors are on the same level of competence of the bad officers in Generation Kill — in fact, you can imagine them switching places and they probably wouldn’t do a better or worse job. Somehow the narrator’s energy and his ability and determination to press forward — his indignation combined with relentless competence — are enough to carry the story forward. I don’t usually like narratives that rely on the heroes being smart and the people they work for being dumb, as a rule I think that’s too simple. But there’s something about Bazell’s story, about the level of detail and the level of conviction, that let it transcend the model of a guy bitching about his idiot boss. It has to do with taking these gripes past the point of personal grievance and seeing the shape of the system; or maybe, it’s about giving us a narrator who takes system failures personally. It’s a darker, more serious take on what I like about Burn Notice as well, and I definitely heard most of the book in Jeffrey Donovan’s voice.

Further thoughts I’m having on how fiction and nonfiction tie together would have to involve Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (space opera!), Shakespeare’s history plays, and a biography of Orson Welles that I’ve started reading. If Generation Kill and Beat the Reaper are about how things get done badly, then this second set is about the often-more-surprising fact that things sometimes manage to get done well. I’ll have to tease that out more at some point.

And I ought to be able to come up with some way to make this all fit with Doctor Who, but that might be beyond me this late on a Sunday night. So I’ll just reiterate — the Doctor’s ex-boyfriend is kind of a dick.

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