Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: mystery

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to read–besides the Hardy Boys series–was Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. Mostly, now, I remember their covers, with their white backgrounds, colorful graphics, and red highlights, as well as the note included in the front of every one of them I can remember: that the books weren’t meant to be read like regular books.

If you don’t remember the novels, or if you’ve never seen them, basically, each had a particular premise–pirates, or a mysterious island, or a haunted house, or . . . whatever, really. There were aliens and space travel and underwater adventures and treasure hunting. And each book started out with you–because the books were written in the rare second-person perspective–getting acquainted with the set-up and the setting. After a few pages, you’d encounter your first choice. Sometimes there were two or even three choices for each particular decision, and each one would ask you to flip to a certain page of the book to continue with the story.

I loved them, but it didn’t take long to grow out of them. I was always fairly ahead of the curve, reading-wise (I read Needful Things in sixth grade), and as I remember the novels, they were skewed more toward middle-grade readers, which I was doing fairly well by second grade or so. I remember another book, too, that seemed more advanced, and just now some quick research leads me to Mystery of Atlantis, which is apparently the eighth installment of the Time Machine series. Seeing that cover . . . that book is on the shelves in my parents’ basement, along with my old Star Wars figures and Construx. From Wikipedia:

The main difference between the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the Time Machine series was that Time Machine books featured only one ending, forcing the reader to try many different choices until they discovered it. Also, the series taught children basic history about many diverse subjects, from dinosaurs to World War II. Only the sixth book in the series, The Rings of Saturn, departed from actual history; it is set in the future, and features educational content about the solar system. Some books gave the reader their choice from a small list of equipment at the beginning, and this choice would affect events later in the book (e.g. “If you brought the pen knife, turn to page 52, if not turn to page 45.”). Another main difference between the Time Machine novels and the Choose Your Own Adventure counterparts was hints offered at certain junctures, where the reader was advised to look at hints at the back of the book. An example was in Mission to World War II about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where the reader was given the choice of starting the mission in the Jewish ghetto or the Aryan part of Warsaw, in which the hint read “Hitler may have had Jewish family members”, suggesting the reader should begin in the Jewish section of the city, but not ordering it, or it was possible for the hint to be missed.

I think maybe that’s why I remember that particular book as more advanced, but it’s also worth pointing out just how much things can influence you without your awareness. Meets Girl may be semi-autobiographical, but The Prodigal Hour is who I am.

But I digress.

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When I was 18 years old, I declared my college major even before I’d set foot in the first class. A lot of students hold off–and I knew many of my friends were–but at the time, there was only one thing I wanted to do with my life:

Be a doctor.

Looking back, I don’t know where the inspiration came from. I used to attribute it to having watched my grandfather lose a battle with prostate cancer when I was four years old, but I’m not so sure. It certainly sounds like a good story though, doesn’t it? Maybe even then I was telling them.

“Be a doctor” was what I told everyone I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe I thought the question was more than just a thought experiment, and becoming a doctor was less about luck than, say, become a ball player or a firefighter–or even a writer. Becoming a doctor is one of those rare professions wherein you put in the time, dedication, and effort, and you emerge as what you set out to be. There’s no guarantee taking acting classes will make you a movie star (perhaps far from it); there’s no guarantee excelling on the college field is going to get you to the big leagues; there’s no guarantee that going to one of the most prestigious universities in the world to study the craft of writing is going to get you a publication contract with a giant conglomerate (trust me on that one).

But you go to college to study some science or other–often biology, which usually also requires semesters of chemistry (both general and organic), physics, and basic anatomy and physiology–and then you take the MCATs and go to medical school, and four years after that, you’ll be a doctor.

Well. A resident. Or a doctor. To be honest, I’m not sure how it all works. I never got that far.

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I thought that since I had already written about Doctor Who and Supernatural, I really should devote some screentime to my favorite show, House, M.D..

Especially since I’m so worried about it.

I don’t quite remember when I became a fan of House, but I certainly remember how: my best friend in my writing program at some point, told me I needed to watch it and lent me the first season on DVD. I don’t remember why, nor how it came up, but man, it hooked me right away.

Some background: I was, during college, premed. I got right up to the MCATs before I realized I’m not a doctor, and by then it was late enough that I ended up graduating with a secondary major in science. My primary major was literature, and I did my thesis on the connection between medicine and writing as embodied in the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and William Carlos Williams. Looking back, I think what ultimately made me give it up was realizing that I really couldn’t handle that responsibility. It’s not the blood or the guts or anything; it’s the fear of making a mistake the cost of which would be a life.

I was skeptical when my friend lent me that DVD, but then I started watching the show, and I found I very quickly couldn’t stop. I’d say I’m not sure there’s a better show on television because I’d have a very limited sample set (I haven’t really owned a television in several years), but I know I just kept going, straight on through. I watched the entire first season in a weekend, and then watched most of the second over my first USC winter break, my first Christmas and New Year’s on my own and in LA.

And I loved it.

For anyone not watching; House is less a show about medicine than it is about diagnostics, problem solving, and detective work, and House himself has less in common with, say, Doug Ross (or choose a favorite doctor character) than he has with Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. One can pretty much pick up the series with any episode; most are completely self-contained, and all focus primarily on a single case. With nearly perfect three-act structure in every episode. Plus, House is acerbic, sarcastic, and brilliantly curmudgeonly.

But after last season, I’ve been wondering if he hasn’t limped over the shark.

The first three were mostly terrific, and the third ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger in which he lost his entire team (Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, and uber-hot Jennifer Morrison). It was set up well enough to be a dramatic development, and season three began first with House on his own, until his boss forces him to hire a new team. In typical House fashion, he basically has a marathon interview with, like, forty applicants. The third season pretty much became survivor in a hospital with House as Jeff Probst, with several odd-ish complications along the way.

I started to notice it most when House used a hunting knife and a wall socket to electrocute himself. I’m not sure how he did it, though; my father is an electrician, and so far as I know (do not try on your own), one needs at least two such implements, one in each slot of a socket, to complete the circuit and get a shock. How he managed to kill himself with just the knife is anyone’s guess (though, I guess, being House, he probably accounted for it), but moreso it took the character to a weird extreme. House is a Vicodin addict, certainly often a prick, and by most accounts self-destructive in some ways, but destructive enough to set aside survival instinct to see if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel? It felt very much against character.

I can really only hope that the issues that occurred midway through the season did so for the same reasons that I speculate occurred with Supernatural; that writers’ strike messed up productions several ways to Sunday, and about the only show I’d guess it didn’t affect would have been The Bachelorette and its “reality”-based ilk.

The season ended with the death of a character too prevalent and well developed, over the season, to really be called minor but not really exactly major, either. It seemed to come a bit out of left field, but it did complicate various relationships in the show in a lot of ways.

With a few weeks left before the new season starts, I hope they’ve gotten their act together and pull it off well. I’m interested to see where it goes. The friction between House and Wilson (played by Robert Sean Leonard– Swing Heil!) could be insanely tense, and Laurie and Leonard are two actors I’d love to see holding nothing back while going for each other’s throats. They have as dramatic and amazing a chemistry as Laurie ever had with Fry (and if you haven’t seen A Bit of Fry and Laurie, you must).

I’m also wondering if they’ll ever demonstrate just what Taub actually brings to anything, because so far, I’m not totally clear on his use in the show, and why he’s there.

I’m also hoping to see more of Jennifer Morrison. But that’s kind of an obvious request, probably.

(this entry cross-posted to