Recommended diversions

“Dexter”

There is so much bad television that I’m usually way behind the curve on good new shows because I lack the time or patience to wade through the dreck to find the occasional jewel. But I could not resist this show, which debuted a few weeks ago on Showtime, because it stars Michael C. Hall, who played David Fisher on the late, great, and much mourned “Six Feet Under.” Hall’s new show takes his old show’s La Danse Macabre to a new level altogether — the protagonist is a serial killer, albeit a serial killer who kills only people who “deserve it.” Hall is such an amazing actor that he somehow manages to make Dexter sympathetic without pandering and without the script conveniently providing a backstory of cliches that are supposed to account for the character’s tormented behavior. The show is well written and smartly paced, and the cast, although comprised mainly of relative unknowns, is good enough that Hall will not have to carry the show alone. In just five episodes, it has already become our favorite show. I wish Rachel Griffiths’ (Brenda, from “Six Feet Under”) new show, “Brothers and Sisters,” were half as good, but I had to bail after just two episodes because I found the show too weepy and cloying to bear, and the entire family — every brother and every sister — insufferable. If Dexter were somehow to make a guest appearance, that herd of whiners would be thinned considerably. I’d tune in for that.

Tom Petty, Highway Companion

Can it really be 30 years since Petty first invaded FM radio with American Girl, followed three years later by his breakthrough album, Damn the Torpedoes, an album right up there with Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan as 70s albums that EVERYBODY had and knew by heart. Highway Companion hardly marks a comeback for Petty — he’s been slugging away all these years, producing records on a regular basis with and without the Heartbreakers, but this is the first one since 1989’s Full Moon Fever to really register with me. Fast ones, slow ones, Mike Campbell on guitar ... all in all, vintage Petty. And on a sunny summer day tooling down the highway listening to FM radio, I’d as soon hear half a dozen of these songs as “Refugee.”

— By Chris Cox

The Naturalist's Corner

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Back Then with George Ellison

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    Colorful reminders of long-ago homesteads A chimney standing all alone where a fire burned a house down long ago … a crumbling stone wall overgrown with tangles of vines … a flattened area on a slope above a creek or abandoned roadbed … all are likely locations for a dwelling…
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