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November 23, 2006

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Two of my favourite West Wing episodes deal with Big Block of Cheese Day, aka "Throw Open Our Office Doors To People Who Want To Discuss Things That We Could Care Less About". I love Toby.

(Even when he says things like "Leo, wouldn't this time be better spent plotting a war against a country that can't possibly defend itself against us?")

Jes -- really? Serves me right for stopping watching after the first couple of seasons. I had never heard of the Mammoth Cheese before this morning.

Both the Big Block of Cheese episodes happen in the first two seasons. (I stopped watching two episodes into the fifth season, deciding that not even for the sake of getting to see Alan Alda play a Republican could I bear the New Improved Dialogue.)

Reminds me of the fame'd octuple Gloucester.

Wow. A show about liberals, written by liberals, and you two didn’t even stick? I’m amazed it went that many seasons :)

OCSteve: A show about liberals, written by liberals

What?

Oh, yes, from an American POV Bartlett and crew are liberals: from my POV, they were cuddly Conservatives.

But the dialogue! I'd put up with anything, even the three minutes of shmaltzy American patriotism at the end of far too many episodes, for the dialogue that Aaron Sorkin could write.

When he left the show, I left too.

Blessed are the cheese makers?

(Jes, you should be ashamed of yourself for missing that one!)

Both the Big Block of Cheese episodes happen in the first two seasons. (I stopped watching two episodes into the fifth season, deciding that not even for the sake of getting to see Alan Alda play a Republican could I bear the New Improved Dialogue.)

Jes, you missed out. Yes, the fifth season varies in quality, between "mediocre" and "unimaginative" for the most part (the major exception being a wonderful, sparkling, and wholly unrealistic storyline about the confirmation of new Supreme Court justices, featuring Glenn Close, William Fichtner and Robert Picardo in supporting roles), but the sixth and seventh seasons are very solid teevee by any standard as the plot shifts to Josh's running of Jimmy Smits' presidential campaign and CJ taking over the duties of Chief of Staff as Jed's health chooses the least favorable time to worsen.

The dialogue doesn't quite hit the high of the Sorkin seasons, but it gets back to a place where at least it's not distracting, and the storyline and acting are rock-solid.

When he left the show, I left too.

Fair enough. Just yanking your chain. :)

Just yanking your chain. :)

*clank, clank*

:p

"It measured more than four feet in diameter, thirteen feet in circumference, and seventeen inches in height"

"four feet in diameter--eh, not that impressive.

thirteen feet in circumference--wow, that's big!"

pi was clearly as non-obvious back then as it is now.

Didn't christians do something like that (fasting and reflecting) around easter? Like the islamic ramadan?

And with cheese quality matters a whole lot more than quantity IMHO...

The problem with a day of fasting and humiliation and remembrance of our sins, is that in the current political climate it would only encourage the remembrance of *their* sins (where 'they' are the members of our nation who we disapprove if). Because *our* main sin is of course tolerating 'their' behaviour and not doing enough to prevent it or denounce it.

On second thoughts, that's probably true in most political situations: most of the time when you remember your country's sins it is with the implicit provisio that most of it is not really your fault.

I would trust dutchmarbel on the topic of cheese. Ah my beloved edam and gouda. Ate edam for breakfast this morning as it happens.

Magistra: most of the time when you remember your country's sins it is with the implicit provisio that most of it is not really your fault.

Mmm. And now it's no longer Thanksgiving, can I say how well this ties into the many, many pro-war pundits who ridiculed the people who opposed the invasion of Iraq, and now that we're proved right and they're proved wrong, they've mostly switched smoothly over to opposing the war (because they'd look stupid now if they supported it) while declining to acknowledge that they were wrong, and the people they ridiculed were right?

Now I'd like to apologize for George III, for Andrew Carnegie, and for supporting Tony Blair. :-(

It's an interesting juxtaposition: Leland's Mammoth Cheese symbolising dissent, political diversity and republican ideals; and the Ten Ton Cheese (according to the poet) symbolising the promised growth of the British Empire, into which other nations and provinces would be squeezed like curds.

I think I feel a chapter coming on for Cheese: A Political Metaphor and the Dawn of the Modern Nation-State (in bookshops soon!)

Of course, it'll also mention de Gaulle - "how can any man govern a country with 246 different sorts of cheese?" and finish up with a conclusion touching on the fuss over whether parmesan cheese has to come from Reggio Parmigiano, and the sickening spread of homogenised "American Cheese".

I never watched a single episode of The West Wing, because I couldn't forgive Sorkin for choosing it over the absolutely sublime Sports Night, damn him.

Jes, is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip airing in the UK? Sorkin's doing most of the writing on that one. And it's his extended -- in every sense of the word -- middle finger to: A) the TV industry, B) the press and all their mean stories about his drug problems, C) bloggers, for the same reason, and D) the religious right, particularly ex-girlfriend Kristen Chenoweth.

Still, it's not a bad show. Still finding its tone.

Phil: Jes, is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip airing in the UK? Sorkin's doing most of the writing on that one.

Thanks for the tip: I'll look out for it. (I don't think it's broadcasting over here yet.)

Marbel: And with cheese quality matters a whole lot more than quantity IMHO...

Indeed. Mmm, cheese.

What A Friend We Have In Cheeses

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese” — G.K. Chesterton

What a friend we have in cheeses,
For no food more subtly pleases,
Nor plays so vast a gastronomic part;
Cheese imported—not domestic—
For we all get indigestic
From the pasteurizer’s Kraft and sodden art.

No poem we shall ever see is
Quite so lovely as a Brie is,
For “the queen of cheese” is what they call the Brie;
If you pay sufficient money
You will get one nice and runny,
And you’ll understand what foods these morsels be!

How we covet all the skills it
Takes in making Chèvre or Tilset,
But if getting basic Pot Cheese is your aim,
Take some simple curds and wheys, a
Bit of rennet — Lo! you’ve Käese!
(Which is what, in German, is a cheese’s name.)

Good lasagna, it’s a-gotta
Mozzarella and Ricotta
And a lotta freshly grated Parmesan;
With the latter any pasta
Will be eaten up much faster,
For with Parmesan you’ll find a charm is on.

Ask Ignacio Silone
What he thinks of Provolone,
And the very word will set his eyes aflame;
Then go ask the bounteous Gina
Her reaction to Fontina—
If you raise your eyes, you’ll see she feels the same.

A Pont-l’Évèque au point! What ho!
How our juices all will flow!
But don’t touch a Pont-l’Évèque beyond that stage,
For what you’ll have, you’ll surely find
Is just an overfragrant rind—
There’s no benefit to this fromage from age.

Claret, dear, not Coca-Cola,
When you’re having Gorgonzola—
Be particular to serve the proper wines;
Likewise pick a Beaune not Coke for
Pointing up a Bleu or Roquefort—
Bless the products of the bovines and the vines!

Ave Gouda! Ave Boursault!
Ave Oka even more so!
Ave Neufchâtel! Saluto Port-Salut!
And another thing with cheeses—
Every allied prospect pleases—
Ah timbale! Ah Welsh Rabbit! Ah fondue!

And we all know that “Say cheese” is
How a cameraman unfreezes
A subject in a stiff, or shy, or dour way;
There’s no other food so useful,
So bring on a whole cabooseful
Of the stuff of life — the cheeses of the gourmet!

– William Cole

From an Almanac of Words at Play, one of my favorite books growing up.

I generally liked West Wing when they were doing domestic shows and/or when the emphasis was on the characters, their quirkiness, their wit, etc... In other words, when it was The Gilmore Girls do the White House.

I hated West Wing whenever they did a foreign policy episode and it was some centrist liberal fantasy about tough-minded liberals showing that they could bomb foreigners when they had to. I pretty much tuned out the whole imaginary war against some imaginary Mideast country that they did in parallel to the real world after 9/11.

Donald, I didn't mind the episodes where Bartlet comes across as a "let's bomb the Middle East!" kind of President - I didn't like the way Bartlet used the power he had to make war, but it didn't strike me as in any way out of character for an American President, Democratic or Republican. Or Toby Ziegler defending the use of land mines - that made me angry, but angry with Toby, because I could see how he'd talked himself into defending the "realistic" political position: it made sense.

I don't really want to know that (if) Sorkin found Bartlet or Ziegler admirable at those worst moments. It would probably spoil watching it for me.

There's a particular example of this - I was really looking forward to getting to see the post-9/11 special episode Aaron Sorkin wrote, but I was fearfully disappointed by it when I did get to see it. (The title should have given me a clue that it was going to focus on the wrong stuff: Isaac and Ishmael.) But it wasn't even well written - it had a shoddy structure, the WW characters didn't sound like themselves, and the one incident that was true-to-life - American Muslim harassed and assumed to be a traitor because of his surname - ended with the man back at his desk, suspicion apparently gone from him... and as far as I remember, we never see a Muslim working at the White House again.

I shouldn't have been disappointed: it fitted a pattern. A lot of American fanfic writers, immediately after 9/11, wrote one or more fanfic stories about their favorite characters, reacting to 9/11. Fanfic can be very well written, but I can't think of a single example of those stories that was any good - they were understandable emotional blow-outs. The fanfic writers, though, tended to focus on what was important to them - the attack on the WTC and the New York response to it, which made their stories more readable than Sorkin's attempt to put a political gloss on it with a cheapjack analysis of Middle Eastern politics that had no more depth or sense to it than Bush's "They hate us because of our freedoms".

On the topic of bad poetry (not cheese), hil, I'm kind of assuming that you know the oeuvre of Julia Moore, the "Sweet Singer of Michigan"? "Ashtabula Bridge Disaster" is a personal favorite.

I, for one, find "Studio 60" pretty much insufferable. I wouldn't call myself an avid viewer of The West Wing, but it did have some escapist appeal during the darker moments of Republican rule. But who the hell fantasizes about sanctimonious and unfunny sketch comedy?

"Thirty Rock", on the other hand, is awesome.

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