One of these days soon, for my own amusement, and if worth it, for the amusement here, I plan to sort in Excel my Netflix rentals in 2009. Yes, it's a weird thing to do. I started doing it in 2006 on a whim, as just another thing that I could track to see the patterns of a year in a quantified manner. I tend to fuss over the chart for a day or so, fascinated by my own year-to-year trends (documentary/nonfiction videos have really slacked off, and I don't think 2009 is going to be any different). I make Cody try to pick his favorite new TV show that we started in the year, or pick his favorite movie of the year. I do the same.
But that's not what I set out to type about. I've been idly thinking over my favorite TV shows while I contemplate the eventual compilation of the 2009 list, and while This American Life doesn't rank #1, I've grown very fond of it this year.
There's something intimately compelling about the stories told on This American Life and the way their told. I find myself returning hours and days later to these snippets of people's lives to contemplate how a certain person would approach a problem, what another's response to a situation would be. These ordinary people have captured my imagination in a way usually reserved for characters in favored novels.
Which I think is part of the appeal—maybe most of it. This American Life works for me like visual character studies. It tells a slice of a story, part of a person's life, and not always even an especially important part. Just a part. It's a tease for my muse, and when I'm not paying attention, my imagination begins to fill in the story around these people, making up all kinds of things that could happen to them.
It's not often I can pinpoint a specific thing that feeds the muse, but This American Life is undeniable muse fodder.