Most fish-out-of-water stories are told at the expense of the poor fish. But not so with Aliens in America, which may well be the best television show you're not watching. Well, you'd first have to find that misbegotten offspring of the WB/UPN marriage, the CW channel.
Your efforts will be well rewarded with a very funny comedy that takes on racism, the war on terror, Islam, and that most hallowed of American institutions: high school. How can you resist a show that throws together a devout Pakistani teenager and small-town America?
Hollywood is usually at its excruciatingly racist worst when it comes to any plot that involves foreign exchange students of the non-white variety -- think Long Duk Dong slobbering over Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. The joke is always at the expense of the "fish."
Rebecca Solnit, as usual, offers plenty of food for thought in her essay, "Finding Time." As often with Solnit, I was both impressed by her insight, and impatient of her tendency to draw tenuous connections to all her pet issues/peeves, irrespective of the subject at hand.
Who can resist a piece that begins, "The four horsemen of my apocalypse are called Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security, and in their names, crimes against poetry, pleasure, sociability, and the very largeness of the world are daily, hourly, constantly carried out. These marauding horsemen are deployed by technophiles, advertisers, and profiteers to assault the nameless pleasures and meanings that knit together our lives and expand our horizons."
Solnit offers some wonderful insights into the ways in which our lives are shaped by the tyrannical regimen of these four values, but the only downside is that much of it leads inexorably to a litany of the standard complaints against automobiles, commerce, McMansions, consumerism etc. There's even the obligatory admiring nod to those darned Europeans.