Monday, October 4, 2010

Drum's List

Kevin Drum wants us to think about "aspects of human nature that most people don't pay enough attention to" and suggests a couple.  I'll play!  But only in a rather obvious way: I'll add the fundamental attribution error, which is more or less a cognitive bias in favor of attributing actions (of others) to their personality traits. rather than to the conditions surrounding them.

It's probably a good part of why people keep wanting to find the roots of Barack Obama's current difficulties in his personality rather than just accepting that presidents aren't very popular when the economy is in the dumps.  That said, I've been re-watching I, Claudius recently, and it's just a lot more fun for Livia to be flat-out evil than it is to just accept that anyone in her situation would have murdered off and otherwise disposed of all those people.

(It occurs to me that perhaps not everyone has watched I, Claudius.  It's absolutely, no question about it, must-see -- great, great TV.  Plus it's short, so it's not like I'm telling you that you have to watch all seven seasons of Buffy.  Which, you know, you should do to, but I'll let someone else tell you that.  But really, Brian Blessed's Augustus is one of my handful of all-time favorite TV characters...highest recommendation, especially the first half of the series that he's in).


  1. When you get to the last disc, make sure to watch the bonus feature: a documentary about, and including all the extant footage from, the aborted 1930s Alexander-Korda-produced, Josef-von-Sternberg-directed, Charles-Laughton-and-Merle-Oberon-starring "I, Claudius." Laughton is so good hemakes Derek Jacobi look like ... like David Hasselhoff, or something.

  2. I dunno, Jonathan. I didn't really enjoy the last sad-sack season of Buffy. (Though it's still better than that last excruciating season of The West Wing, I'll grant.)

  3. Classicist,

    Thanks for the tip -- I haven't seen that, and I definitely will. Although I'm not at all convinced that I'll think any less of Jacobi's performance...I'm perfectly comfortable believing that both Branaugh & Olivier made masterpiece versions of Henry V, and leaving it at that.


    Really? I love season 7 (of Buffy -- I'm not exactly a fan of The West Wing, as much as I do think it's quite well acted and that they occasionally get some things right). I would say that Buffy isn't as consistent episode-to-episode as it could be, and that probably only Seasons 2 & 3 are absolutely short-list must see, but I still enjoy the entire run a lot, and IMO there are great, great episodes in every season.

  4. I'll concede that there are some pretty good episodes in the last season (in particular, the finale), but it just wasn't as consistently great as the best seasons.

  5. I love that television viewing habits have evolved to the point that the 13 hours of "I, Claudius" can be considered "short" these days.

  6. Don't forget to remind fans of The Sopranos that they'll find much to enjoy in I, Claudius.

  7. t e w,

    It's not that Claudius is now short -- it's that there are so many excellent shows to watch. It's not as if Bonanza or Gunsmoke or Perry Mason were shorter, just that no one believes you have to watch every episode (although I do love Perry Mason).


    And speaking of which...I watched the first season of The Sopranos, and then have never got around to watching the rest of it. I've rarely subscribed to HBO over the years, so I'm always watching their shows late, and I've always had things that seemed more pressing to me than watching the rest of The Sopranos.

    On the plus side, I've *finally* started The Wire. Although I'm really just at the very beginning, and I'm certainly hoping I won't have much time to watch it over the next month.

  8. The Wire is as much "must see" as Buffy, and that's high praise from a Whedonite like myself. I'm watching The Wire again on DirecTv's channel 101 and I'm loving it just as much the second time. Its well worth making time for. And like Buffy you should watch every season.

    I used to think The Sopranos was up in that Buffy echelon of television. But while its good, its not quite in the same category. Its maybe a bit more purely entertaining than The Wire. But The Wire more than makes up for its lack of popcorn type entertainment (for a lack of a better phrase).


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