"Get away from the TV," says Uncle Steve, your weird relative who never shuts up about Infinite Jest and his raw-foods diet. "Television is such a passive activity." Steve also loves to talk about how, right after graduating from Oberlin, he threw his television set away. What motivation! What contempt for the mainstream! What stupidity: He's missed every single episode of Carnivàle.
Watching Carnivàle, the Twin-Peaks-in-the-Dust-Bowl series on HBO, is a passive activity in much the same way that getting punched in the face for no good reason is a passive activity. Sure, you were just kind of there, and no, you didn't really do anything, but something sure as hell happened, and you're going to think about it later. Without resorting to sensationalism or stereotypes, Carnivàle explores everything from racism to demonic possession to "dancing the cootch."
You missed the whole season? Don't fret. There are reruns. And, because nothing can exist without a tie-in, there is HBO/Real Arcade's Fate (www.realonearcade.com/carnivale/), an online tarot-card game (read: "fancied-up solitaire") that lets the player be the Tattooed Lady, the Conjoined Twins or the Dogfaced Boy (a character who is not, nor has ever been, on Carnivàle -- weird). The game requires concentration, patience and mental acuity, which is to say that it's slightly less involved than -- and not nearly as fun as -- watching Carnivàle.
Kill your TV? Not while this extraordinary show is still around. Tell Uncle Steve to put that in his postmodern pipe and smoke it. A discussion about Carnivàle may begin with, "Remember when the midget was arguing with the flamboyant scaly guy, and they were interrupted by the bearded lady?" But don't wait for a punch line: There isn't one. The show is compelling because of its characters' humanity -- the weird, wild surroundings are just a bonus. -- Brooke Foster
It's Cosmic, Baby
Bowling in the dark
No, I said do you want to go bowl in the dark -- get your mind out of the gutter. Seriously, though, you ever done cosmic bowling? No, it's not tantric -- it's more like an unfilmed dream sequence from The Big Lebowski. Imagine a bowling alley with the lights out, the black lights on, Zeppelin blaring and you pitching your glowing neon ball down iridescent lanes (Tron-style), throwing back White Russians until the wee hours -- it's the Pink Floyd laser show of the bowling world, only fun. Crestwood Bowl (9822 Watson Road, 314-966-4377) and Carrollton Bowl (12249 Natural Bridge Road, 314-291-3215) get crazy on the weekends, and they're not the only ones, so, like, behold the power of the cosmic.-- Mark Dischinger