I got a two hour dose of my favorite guilty pleasure this week. The West Wing was a repeat, and with no special episode Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to trim its run-time, The Amazing Race had a spectacular 120 minutes to thrill, awe, and stupefy its viewing audience. At the best of times, the show highlights various cultures, traditions, and locales from around the world. Its best times are few and far between. Normally, it’s a frantic race of ugly Americans who, while berating or cajoling natives into helping them win, are using the world as their playground.

What’s doubly awful is that it’s really fun TV. It’s quick, it’s mindless, and it’s easy to become attached. There are occasional heros and frequent villains, and the race lends itself to cheering on your favs. We’re down to four teams now, with most viewers hoping, I’m sure, to see Ian and Teri eaten by sharks, Flo and Zach thrown off the Cliffs of Insanity (a journey which I dare say Flo has already made), and either the Zoolander twins or the Dandy Bros. win big.

I hope The West Wing is a repeat next week too.

In the last week I’ve borrowed three Clint Eastwood DVDs from Bret and given a go to the Sergio Leone trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I found the movies long, but Leone’s style revolutionized the Western genre and catapulted Eastwood into stardom. You’ve got to give the films some props in that regard. I think you’d have to partial to westerns, Eastwood’s minimalist style, or academic cinema study to really appreciate these films. Otherwise, they’re long and frequently dull, punctuated by moments of high tension. For what it’s worth, my favorite of these was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has the additional benefit of some of the most memorable music of any Western ever.

I also watched an all-star cast perform David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and I have to say that despite winning performances from every actor (Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin), I found the film both vulgar and tedious. The sales aspects were moderately interesting, and, as I say, the performances were outstanding. For me at least, it was still inadequate compensation for the 91 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Dave sent me a note telling me to check out Ali Davis’ True Porn Clerk Stories that were featured on National Public Radio last summer, and I’ve got to say they’re the most compelling reading I’ve had in months. Here’s the setup: Some 30 year-old female anthropology geek takes a $6.50 an hour job as a video rental clerk in a porn palace. She rather academically and humorously catalogues her experiences, and through her prose drags the rest of us into the world of porn.

I’ve always found pornography fascinating in the same way that I find the people in the stands at a horse race more interesting than the race itself. It’s not that the race is uninteresting, mind you, it’s that I’m just a heckuva lot more curious about everybody who’s getting exciting about the horses. So I found Davis’ journals captivating.

I wrote my senior honors thesis in college on the topic of art versus obscenity, so for those who scoff when I say I’m more interested in the porn readers or the pornographers than the porn itself, at least I’ve something of an academic fig leaf to hide behind. What’s your excuse for watching the Playboy channel?