Thursday, February 28, 2013

MAMA DON'T DANCE


Your mama don't dance
Your mama can't dance
Your mama shouldn't dance
But she can if she's wants to.
Your mama don't sing
She hasn't got the swing
She butchers everything
But she can try if she wants to.

My mama told me
She wanted to go clubbing Monday
I whispered in her ear
Oh little mama dear
I watched you practice last Sunday.
She shouted I was wrong
She had a favorite song
And would master it someday.


Your mama don't dance
Your mama can't dance
Your mama shouldn't dance
But she can if she's wants to.
Your mama don't sing
She hasn't got the swing
She butchers everything
But she can try if she wants to.

I taught her all I knew
It didn't stick like glue
She was decidedly hopeless.
She said she didn't care
And I tried hard not to stare
As she picked out a taupe dress.
It had slits down the left side
She had nothing left to hide
Yet she was utterly gropeless.

She was sailing
on a sea of infamy.
I didn't understand
that she was part of our family.

She strolled into the club
the DJ playing dub
and that girl caught the groove
She did the thizzle and the rabbit
You'da thought it was a habit
By the way she busted a move.
The guys were lining up
and checking out her butt
But my mama was smooth.


You said I don't dance
Your said I can't dance
You said I shouldn't dance
Now I can if I want to.
You said I don't sing
That I ain't got the swing
That I butcher everything
But I can belt if I wants to.








Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DENZEL'S MOVIE

    
   The most exciting airline flight in the history of cinema is far and away a great reason--in and of itself--to watch Flight (2012). Director Robert Zemeckis kept the cameras inside the plane for the duration of the problem that Denzel Washington's character resolves, creating a genuinely disturbing sense of claustrophobia that is so strong it's actually painful. Only after the plane has landed do we get a sense as to how the plane appeared to those on the ground. Denzel, as pilot Whip Whitaker, handles the situation with more self-control than anyone since Ed Harris helped land the Apollo 13 spacecraft. Part of what makes this so amazing is that Whitaker has smoked marijuana, snorted a fat line of cocaine, drunk two (or three) airline bottles of vodka, and ingested a couple hits of oxygen. All this adds to our fascination, as well as our overwhelming tension during the flight. 
    This is one of the three great aspects of the movie.
    Another is the perfect manner in which all the people involved in the film create the sense of substance abuse on the part of Whip. From the vacillating volumes of the music to the facial reactions when situations tighten up the pressure, from the repeated lies to others to the inherent self-deceptions, every last detail of addiction is represented here so well that anyone personally familiar with the problem will become very uncomfortable. Given the preponderance of substance abuse, the chances are that if you yourself don't have the problem, you love someone who does.
   The third great thing is actor Don Cheadle. 
    Unfortunately, those are the only three great things about the movie, other than the fact that the filmmakers decided to address the subject at all.
    John Goodman, as drug dealer Harling Mays, reminds us of his appearance in Arachnophobia, meaning that while his character is intended as comic relief, what he really accomplishes is an exercise in overreach that is occasionally downright embarrassing to watch. Goodman's a damned fine actor. It's a pity his overacting wasn't reigned in here.
    Another problem with acting comes in a different form. The remarkable Melissa Leo as investigator Ellen Block doesn't get nearly enough screen time, resulting in leaving us to wonder what her actual feelings are about the possibility that Whip was unfit to pilot the passenger airplane. The same thing rings true with Peter Gerety, a very gifted actor whose character's motivation seems to be a paycheck rather than anything we can latch onto.
      The biggest problem with Flight is that the movie--apparently consciously--left too many matters unresolved. How many bottles of vodka did Whip actually drink? What happened to his wife? What happened to his former heroin-addicted girlfriend? And perhaps the most frustrating problem is the identity of the other alcoholic among the flight crew. We meet a woman at the beginning of the film who is undressed for an extended period of time. She is Whip's overnight guest in a hotel. This woman may or may not be a member of the flight crew, a woman who dies during the plane landing, the woman who also had a drinking problem. Yes, I know I could check it out on IMDB or elsewhere. The point is that I shouldn't have to check it out. I ought to know by watching. I don't, probably because during the nude scene I wasn't exactly watching the woman's face if you know what I mean and I think you do. I'm not alone in my uncertainty either. Just ask my female roommate. 
    As a film that runs a little over two hours, Flight, it might be argued, didn't have time to give Leo and Gerety more time on camera, or explain every little nitpicking detail. That would be true if the movie didn't waste a great deal of time on items that fall outside the purview of the three elements that serve a visualized story. Oh, you aren't familiar with those three elements, as I so highfalutinly call them? In order to be valid aspects of a movie, a scene must either further the plot, further character development, or further the aesthetic appeal of the film. Time spent on a back porch yakking it up about the old days or hanging out in a stairwell at a hospital further none of these things and indeed are boring as hell. 
    If you want to watch Denzel in one of the most amazing performances of his career--which is to say one of the best acting jobs anywhere--then you will like this movie. Even that won't be enough for you to love it.

    

Sunday, February 24, 2013

TERRY AND CHARLEY GO TO CHURCH

   
    I broke two ribs and had the back of my head whacked very hard, but I wasn't half as tough as Terry Malloy. I was just a smart mouth who told two guys to go fuck themselves with the baseball bat one of them carried. To the best of my knowledge, neither one of them did that, but then again I was unconscious for a little more than two hours, so anything is possible. The bums never got the better of Terry Malloy, though. That's because Malloy is made of finer stuff than I am. 
    Of course, you know that Terry Malloy is Marlon Brando, just as you know that Edie is Eve Marie Saint, that Johnny Friendly is Lee J. Cobb, that Karl Malden is the Priest, and that Rod Steiger is Charley, just as you know that the movie is On The Waterfront
   On the Waterfront (1954) remains a hard favorite for me personally because, despite loving every minute of it, I stand opposed to every bit of the contrived slop of which it is constructed. Budd Schulberg wrote and Elia Kazan directed the movie, both these guys being exactly the cheese-eaters that history so often made them out to be. Both men named names before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee to save their own skins, thereby damning far better men to public and private blacklistings that robbed the better folks of prestige and livelihood. 
    Overt propaganda is what On The Waterfront is. And that's fair. Kazan and Schulberg felt they were misunderstood and they wanted to get out in front of the story. Naturally, the way they contrive the story is brilliant. Here's how they tell it: The commies--in the form of the corrupt labor leaders--distort the values of the working man, taking union dues and using them to buy camel hair suits, investing in rigged boxing matches, bribing cops and that kind of all-American thing. Terry is just a stooge, albeit, one with a developing conscience. Over time, Terry discovers that the American people really do have a right to know the facts, so he testifies before the noble commission. The commies fight back, but in this utopia, the working men stand with the snitch because the snitch understands that his brotherhood is not with his friends among the corrupt union but rather among the real working men whose right arms are longer than their left because of hoisting crates onto barges for twenty years so that Edie can go to Catholic school and marry a priest. 
    It's one of the greatest examples of psychological rationalizations for stinky behavior. Schulberg and Kazan worked hard to make a great movie and they did. Brando's exchange with Steiger in the taxi remains one of the best dialogues in the history of film, both in terms of writing and performance.
Charley: How much do you weigh, slugger? When you weighed 168 pounds... ...you were beautiful. You could have been another Billy Conn. That skunk we got you for a manager... ...he brought you along too fast. 

Terry: It wasn't him, Charley. It was you. Remember that night in the Garden? You came down to my dressing room and said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night." My night! I could have taken Wilson apart! So what happens, he gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville! You was my brother, Charley. You should have looked out for me a little bit. You should've taken care of me a little so I wouldn't have to take dives for short-end money. 

Charley: I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don't understand, I could have had class! I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody. Instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it. It was you, Charley!
   Another genius aspect of the film and its writing is the way the bad guys mock both God and man. When Karl Malden the Priest stands beside a murdered comrade in the hole of the ship, the bad guys hurl cans of crap at him as he delivers the rites. Likewise, when the same bad guys have murdered Charley, they taunt Terry to come out and see what happened to his brother. That's as bad as bad guys get, laughing at God and murdering Abel. Compared to that, Terry Malloy developing a case of conscience to avenge a murdered Joey Doyle looks pretty good. 
   The ultimate irony, of course, happens when Lee J. Cobb sounds off in the courtroom after Terry testifies. 
Friendly: You just dug your own grave. Go fall in it. You're dead on this waterfront and every waterfront... ...from Boston to New Orleans. You don't drive a truck or a cab... ...you don't push a baggage rack you don't work no place, you're dead!
   The irony is that the snitch gets blacklisted when in reality its those he snitched against that can't find employment. 
    On The Waterfront, then, remains a classic film that almost outshines its own hypocrisies. About how many movies can that be said?


   They never did quite catch the guys who bashed my head in and cracked my ribs. I'm still looking.

Friday, February 22, 2013

HOT IN HERE

   
   Back in the 1850s--even before you were born--a small number of weather stations around the world started compiling temperature records. Today, of course, thousands of land-based weather stations and ocean buoys rock and roll in every corner of the world, giving us data about how messed up our global temperatures are.
   These weather stations should be scaring the bejeezus out of a lot more people than they already do, clearly showing a warming of the Earth over the past century. The last few decades hold a special place in climate nightmares.

Global Mean Monthly Surface Temperature Estimates for the Base Period 1901 to 2000

Land Surface
Mean Temp.
JFMAMJJASONDAnnual
1901 to 2000 (°C)2.83.25.08.111.113.314.313.812.09.35.93.78.5
1901 to 2000 (°F)37.037.840.846.552.055.957.856.953.648.742.638.747.3
Sea Surface
Mean Temp.
JFMAMJJASONDAnnual
1901 to 2000 (°C)15.815.915.916.016.316.416.416.416.215.915.815.716.1
1901 to 2000 (°F)60.560.660.760.961.361.561.561.461.160.660.460.460.9
Combined Mean
Surface Temp.
JFMAMJJASONDAnnual
1901 to 2000 (°C)12.012.112.713.714.815.515.815.615.014.012.912.213.9
1901 to 2000 (°F)53.653.954.956.758.659.960.460.159.057.155.254.057.0



Satellite measurements since 1979
   We have all kinds of satellites in outer space that can measure earth temperatures. Those bad boys have been spinning the friendly skies since 1979. Between the year zero and 1900, the global sea levels did not rise. Once the twentieth century arrived, all that changed. The levels went up and sea level is projected to rise at an even greater rate in this century. There's two major reasons the sea levels rise: thermal expansion of the oceans and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting.

    To get a handle on what is causing today's rapid global warming, scientists have examined the three factors that have the potential to affect the Earth's temperature: the sun, earth's reflectivity, and greenhouse gases. 
    Earth's climate is powered by the sun. The hotter the sun gets, the hotter it gets on earth, as well as elsewhere in the solar system. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the sun accounts for a very small portion of warming since 1750. A study of more recent solar activity has demonstrated that since about 1985 the sun has changed in ways that, if anything, should have cooled the planet—even as global temperatures have been rising. So the sun is not one of the usual suspects. 
   Reflectivity is the energy from the sun hitting the earth and bouncing back out into space. Currently, almost thirty percent of the energy that hits the earth makes it back into space. Using satellite and land-based observations and computer models, we can see that human-produced particulate pollution, especially reflective sulfur-containing particles, have had a cooling effect on the climate, masking some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases. If you think that I'm saying that particulate pollution was actually having a positive impact on our planet, when it comes to controlling temperatures, that is very true. For good or bad, industrialized nations started cleaning up their particulates around 1975 while greenhouse gas emissions continued unabated. This coincides with an upswing in global temperatures.
   By process of elimination, the greenhouse effect remains as the only culprit in town. We have direct measurements of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere going back more than 50 years, and indirect measurements (from ice cores) going back hundreds of thousands of years. These measurements confirm that concentrations are rising rapidly.

   While it may seem like fodder for hack comics that increasing global temperatures would also lead to extreme winter weather, Earth's poles do still tip away from the sun for part of the annual orbit, resulting in something we call winter. Heavy precipitation events, including big snowstorms, have gotten heavier, but there’s less snow overall. As Princeton climate scientist and former Environmental Defense Fund Chief Scientist Michael Oppenheimer said in an AP article, "Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch. That's the new world we live in."
   Summer heat waves become more frequent, prolonged and intense as the planet’s atmosphere heats up.
    2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States and, more importantly, one of the 10 warmest years globally—with all of those occurring in the past fifteen years. 
   While large swaths of land are drying out, some areas are getting wetter. Rising temperatures mean more evaporation of water into the atmosphere. That means more clouds holding more moisture—leading to more extreme downpours. With warmer ocean water also comes stronger hurricanes.
    During October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the Atlantic seaboard. Massive storm surges flooded New York and New Jersey, causing widespread power outages and damage. As the storm moved west, blizzard conditions led to a foot of snow blanketing six states.
   In July 2012, more than half of the U.S. was experiencing drought conditions. By September, nearly two-thirds of the country was suffering moderate-to-exceptional drought. This is expected to persist in 2013.
    All in all, it might be a good idea to lay off the aerosol, even if it is a red herring. That's right. This is a problem that we have created for ourselves.

   The greenhouse gases that humans do emit directly in significant quantities are:
• Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for almost three-quarters of the warming impact of current human greenhouse-gas emissions. The key source of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, though deforestation is also a very significant contributor.
• Methane (CH4) accounts for almost fourteen percent of the impact of current human greenhouse-gas emissions. Key sources include agriculture (especially livestock and rice fields), fossil fuel extraction and the decay of organic waste in landfill sites. Methane doesn't persist in the atmosphere as long as CO2, though its warming effect is much more potent for each gram of gas released.
• Nitrous oxide (N2O) accounts for around eight% of the warming impact of current human greenhouse-gas emissions. Key sources include agriculture (especially nitrogen-fertilized soils and livestock waste) and industrial processes. Nitrous oxide is even more potent per gram than methane.
• Fluorinated gases ("F gases") account for around one% of the warming impact of current human greenhouse-gas emissions. Key sources are industrial processes. F-gases are even more potent per gram than nitrous oxide.
    Human activity also screws with earth's temperature in other ways. For example, vapor trails from planes, soot from fires and and tropospheric ozone created indirectly by local pollution all tend to increase warming. On the other hand, aerosol particles produced by some vehicles and industrial processes tend to bounce sunlight away from the earth, temporarily counteracting some of the warming caused by man-made greenhouse gases.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

IS IT TIME?

   
   Woot woot! February 20, 2013 is that day that makes Philropost exactly two years old. It's an easy day for us to remember here in Madly Spinning Orb Land because it also happens to be the birthday of Lisa Ann, the long suffering roommate. Lots of things have happened during these last 731 days. The climate is freaking out, there's more dogs in the world now than ever before, Lindsay is zeroing in on conquest number one thousand, and a grocery store's a supermart, uh-huh.
   We had something called graupel cover the desert lawns of Phoenix yesterday. Seth MacFarlane will be hosting Sunday's presentation of the Academy Awards, proving that it is indeed a long way from Johnny Carson to a talented, foul-mouthed funny man. But then again, everything these days is nonsense so what difference does it make?
   I have noticed--as perhaps you have--that the only people who matter in this world are those who do not precisely exist. I observed yesterday, for instance, that record magnate Clive Davis appeared on something called "The Wendy Williams Show." Clive was the man who brought rock music to Columbia Records before forming his own Arista Records, home to a young and vibrant Patti Smith, among others. Clive mattered then and he matters even now, although sometime around the year 2000 he more or less ceased to exist to any valid extent, conveniently coinciding with his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. 
    On the other hand, I have been advised that my own borderline obsession with things that have, to be generous, stood the test of time, is a colossal waste of my efforts. Yep. I mean, who knew that whatever it was that happened to Jimmy Hoffa no longer matters? The former Teamsters leader did the vanishing act on July 30, 1975. By the first of September of that year various acquaintances of Hoffa, including Chuckie O'Brien and Tony Jack, had made their brief appearances in front of a federal grand jury. All these years later, the mystery continues and personally I believe this fact actually is significant because, as we conspiracy freaks say, if it could happen to Hoffa in 1975 then it could happen to you or me in 2013 and also because it is a mystery. It is also a mystery that has elements of politics and even organized crime, two things that, according to some, are still with us thirty-eight years later. Will it change anything if we solved the mystery tomorrow? Probably not, but only because we as a people are very clever at not learning anything from what happens. We learn, for instance, that the CIA was involved in insurrections in Indonesia that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and yet we continue to trust our institutions. We see snowfall in Phoenix, Arizona, tornadoes in Mississippi in the winter, droughts throughout the Midwest for decades, and yet deny the inevitable apocalypse of man-made global warming. 
    1975, the year in question, really was a milestone year in America. The Hoffa hit was the last in a series of unsolved politically-motivated assassinations that began in 1963 with the killing of Medgar Evers in June of that year and more or less ended in July 1975. In the years between we lost John F Kennedy, Lee Oswald, Malcolm X, George Lincoln Rockwell (no loss, but still), Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Fred Hampton, Alberta Williams King, George Wallace (crippled but not murdered) and others. Sure, I know that Moscone, Milk, Ryan and Flynt were shot outside this time frame, but I'll stand by my idea that 1975 was a watershed year because of how well it fits into the other things we're going to talk about here. 
    Even though 1975 was the first year that disco threatened to dominate the public taste--contrived by music executives though that taste was--with acts like Abba, Van McCoy and Gloria Gaynor having massive hits, it was also one of the last years that pop music witnessed some genuine creativity that harkened back to its root years, as witnessed by the hits of Bruce Springsteen, War, John Lennon, The Staple Singers, The Stylistics, The Eagles, Bachmann-Turner Overdrive, The Sweet, LaBelle and Shirley and Company. 
    As I've mentioned elsewhere, 1975 was in many ways the end of the adventurous lift in cinema that began in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde and ended with Jaws. In 1975 alone, we were treated to the joys of Aloha Bobby and Rose, Barry Lyndon, Cooley High, Dog Day Afternoon, The Fortune, The Giant Spider Invasion (hey, if you haven't seen it, don't laugh), Hester Street, Love and Death, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Nashville, One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest, The Passenger, Royal Flash, Shampoo, and A Woman's Decision
    As you can see, most of the things I treasure are nonsense. Yet somehow I carry on, living in both the past and present, doing my laundry and showering with some frequency. Hoping you're the same,
Phil Mershon
Entering year number three. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

WE ENDED UP AT THE GRAND HOTEL

   
    Many contemporary viewers approach Grand Hotel (1932) with considerable trepidation. With a name like that and being located in Berlin between the two World Wars, one gets a feeling that this is nothing at all like "Dynasty" or "Knotts Landing," where at least the shallow people are so bloody attractive.

   Well, ye boys and girls, it's time to come clean. Grand Hotel is so great a movie that it not only stands on its own two rather colossal feet but even goes so far as to create an entirely new way for audiences to enjoy a motion picture. Hell's Bells and Heck's Becks, the first motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences (The Jazz Singer) had only been released five years earlier and along comes this incredibly large movie with virtually no plot at all, at least not in the way that we would think of plot until thirty-eight years later when Robert Altman came along and gave us a whole slew of movies shorn of trivials such as a traditional storyline. One of Grand Hotel's darker characters sums this plot up quite well when he says, "People come, people go, nothing ever happens."
   Of course, plenty happens, but not in a connect-the-dot manner. And everything that happens is invariably something other than what it initially appears to be. Take for instance John Barrymore. He plays the Baron. One problem he has is that he is not really a Baron. Another problem is that he hasn't any money. An even bigger problem is that he is a hotel thief sent by a mean guy to whom he owes a lot of money to go steal Greta Garbo's pearls. But Barrymore, who in this film really is a thief, in the sense of stealing every scene he's in, turns out to be quite honest and even heroic. Stranger yet he falls in love with Garbo (which isn't all that strange except for the way it happens here) and comes to the defense of Mr. Kringelein, who just happens to be played by John's brother Lionel Barrymore. You couldn't find two more unlikely looking brothers if you searched through a hundred years of film. John the baron thief honest guy is so freaking suave and classy that you realize instantly that people such as Bogart and Cary Grant and yes even Marlon Brando would have been unthinkable had Barrymore not been there to show them the way. As the sad and touching man who believes himself to be terminally ill, Lionel gives new meaning to the idea of humility and courage, so much so that various cinematic nebbishes as Woody Allen, or the fictional George Costanza or George McFly could not have existed without Lionel happening first. 
    We're obviously off to a great start. We have Garbo uttering her famous line, "I want to be alone!" We have the Barrymore Boys supporting one another. You'll never guess what else! Joan Crawford is here and sonofagun if she ain't a real breathtaking beauty. Now anyone who ever sat through all two hours of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane will be delighted to proclaim that Joanie was a lot of things and that beautiful ain't quite the first thing to come to mind and who tells you that is right. But dammit all back and forth if I could even believe it was Crawford playing the gorgeous stenographer until the roomie looked it up for me halfway through the feature. She hadn't learned all that hyperbolic screeching and hideous over acting that would later plague all those who got within spitting distance. Here she's a really gem and we don't go far or long before we hope she and the Baron will hook up big time. Early on John and Joan trade barbs and innuendos so hot and fast it'll get you psychologically aroused before your body even knows what's happening. Just as true, when she gives in a little bit to the evil General Director Preysing, also known as Wallace Beery, you just want to die inside and for real because these people are so excitingly exact that there is no question they really do come and go and one hell of a lot happens. When Lionel stands up to Beery, saying in effect, "You can't fire me you fat fuck because I'm already dead!' around my house we all stood up and cheered Lionel and dropped our pants to moon Beery. 
    Believe it or not, we're just getting started. The Baron falls for Garbo, saving her from a life of suicide. She falls back for him, which makes his attempted tryst with Crawford a mite sticky, but he's able to pawn Joan off on Lionel while Beery stomps and snorts. Garbo's character, Grusinskaya the dancer, suffers from what used to be called manic depression and the Baron is just the mania she needs. If I tell you much more it would ruin the experience and what's more mere words don't do any good at this point because when Vicky Baum's rewrite of William A. Drake's play doesn't dazzle you,  director Edmund Goulding's amazing beautification of the hotel will spin your head around just as fast as the characters come and go. With great subtlety Goulding even manages to give each character his or her own theme music accompanied by the sense that the music is being played by an orchestra somewhere down near the ballroom. Gouldin would continue to direct movies for decades but the closest he ever came to capturing the glory of Grand Hotel was in 1939 with Dark Victory.    
    Earlier this year Warner Bros released a restored version of Grand Hotel on Blu-Ray (eeks, ooh!) and it's readily available on standard DVD as well as showing up occasionally on TCM. The main thing you need to know is that this does not look like an old movie despite it being eighty-one years old. A lot of that is due to the timelessness of the acting. A good bit of it can be attributed to the decent if not spectacular restoration job. But the main reason this movie still packs them in is because that ironically nonexistent storyline grabs you be the belt and collar and just keeps swinging you back and forth until you learn to love the ride. 
    You want to know what's really old about this movie? The fact that it's so good. At the risk of sounding like an oldster my own damned self, I have to stand on a box and declare that today we do not have anyone appearing in pictures who can hold the jock strap of John Barrymore. That's mostly because we don't have an impressive gaggle of actors, although we sho nuff do have our share of movie stars. You know what movie stars are? Movie stars are the cretins that Rod Stewart used to fuck when he could still get it up. Movie stars are Tom Cruise and Megan Fox, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, Seth Rogan and Lindsay Lohan. Actual great actors alive today (unless somebody passed away while I was trying to figure out this list) would be Meryl Streep Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Emma Thompson, Patricia Arquette, Annette Bening, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Connelly, Joan Allen, Charlize Theron, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Bob Hoskins, Ned Beatty, Warren Beatty, Alan Arkin, Javier Bardem, Bill Murray, Jodie Foster (even though she's retired), Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Sissy Spacek, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Ed Harris, Max von Sydow, Edward Norton, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro, at least half of whom are over fifty years of age. There's lots and lots of great real actors around and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Lots of great scripts are written all the time and once in a while those scripts actually make it to the screen. There's all kinds of great young directors out there as well as a few of the old masters. So why can't we get another movie made that's maybe even half as enjoyable as Grand Hotel? After all, they say anyone can make a movie these days. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

CRAZY CRAP FOR A SMALL PLANET

   A meteor hit Russia last night. That can't be good. In terms of human casualties, Friday's meteorite strike is the worst ever reported, writes Stuart Clark, who goes on to say that "Before this there were only stories of a dog being killed in Egypt by a meteorite in 1911 and a boy being hit, but not seriously injured, by one in Uganda in 1992."    Until Friday morning, astronomers had thought the asteroid most likely to hit Earth was one called 2007 VK184. It is about 130 meters across and has a slim 1 in 2,000 chance of hitting Earth some time between 2048 and 2057, a danger that is thought will disappear with better tracking of its orbit, although why tracking one would effect the danger is hard to imagine.
    Clark says better asteroid vigilance is needed: 
"Friday's unexpected strike highlights the need for better searches for dangerous asteroids, and a global strategy to deal with any that are seen."

    It's kind of disheartening to think that our planet's safety plans are entrusted to this type of mind. 
   As Stefanie Krasnow says, "When beliefs, aesthetic preferences and moral proclivities are all left to personal style, we have the hipster mentality, where nonchalant nihilism is cool. Indeed, the word “moral” itself is a dirty word amongst anyone outside the realm of conservatism. But the cult of individualism transcends politics: we are all in the cult. We’ve all had its invisible lens pulled over our eyes such that we perceive the world through a warped and myopic tunnel vision. Aiming to find and remove this lens is as futile as trying to bite your own teeth – for it is built into us."
    That's all well and good. But the BIG story--sirens, Circe, Lyseum--on Action News is all the bloody electronica available for you to blow your hard earn loot on. I mean, how else are you going to keep up with the Jones, Smiths, Abdoolas and Hypereenas, fer Chrissakes? Right. So get out your plastic and buy some, uh, plastic and just imagine how great you'll feel, at least until the fuckers come up with more shit for ya to buy. 
    As we speak, you can buy an electronic muscle therapy device, a Star Cigarette electronic device with touch screen, FM transmitters, the seven-inch (ooh ooh!) High Definition Kingston-built 8G dedicated navigator, and the new app that's called You Can't Swing a Dead Cat in Guadalupe Without Hitting a Dead Cat in Guadalupe.
    When it comes to cell phones, what are you waiting for? Or should I say, WTF R U W8ing 4? Go out right now and buy all of these: Optimus L9, Xperia J, Desire X (gettin hot in here), Galaxy Note II, Asha 309, Droid Razr HD (for those too busy to have time to read the entire word razor, which is mighty tedious indeed), Ascend G600, One X+, Nexus 4, Q10, Apple iPhone5, and the Quad Core Smart Phone for you exercise enthusiasts out there!
   Are we all insane? Sure. In The Sane Society, Erich Fromm wrote, "[M]any psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of 'unadjusted' individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself." Whether it's an obsession with jeggings, skinny jeans, the end of the world, hashtags on Facebook, the very use of the word hashtags, owling, planking, slamming dextromethorphan, I-dosing, bath salts, vodka eyeballing (yeah, that last one is exactly what you think it is), or bacon-flavored candy necklaces--whatever!--it feels as if most of the things that we do to individualize ourselves by hooking up with the group mind in reality just drives us farther and farther off the sanity cliff. 
   At times such as these, I am impelled to return to my well-worn copy of The Pursuit of Loneliness, wherein Philip Slater remarks that "A traveler returning to America from a distant land,is struck first of all by the grim monotony of American facial expressions-hard, surly, and bitter- and by the aura of deprivation that informs them. One goes abroad forewarned against exploitation by grasping foreigners, but nothing is done to prepare the returning traveler for the fanatical acquisitiveness of his compatriots. It is difficult to become reaccustomed to seeing people already weighted down with possessions acting as if every object they did not own were bread with held from a hungry mouth." 
   Slater remains a big time hero of mine, mainly because I fell in love with the aforementioned tome, one that absolutely inspired an awful lot of my college thinking and which in turn has kept my dwindling noodle working overtime just trying to come to grips with the depth of what are often deceptively simple observations. Take this one, for instance.

Change can take place only when liberal and radical pressures are both strong. Intelligent liberals have always recognized the debt they owe to radicals, whose existence permits liberals to push further than they would otherwise have dared, all the while posing as compromisers and mediators. Radicals, however, have been somewhat less sensible of their debt to liberals, partly because of the rather single-minded discipline radicals are almost forced to maintain, plagued as they always are by liberal backsliding and timidity on the one hand and various forms of self-destructiveness and romantic posing on the other.... Liberal reforms and radical change are thus complementary rather than antagonistic. Together they make it possible continually to test the limits of what can be done. Liberals never know whether the door is unlocked because they are afraid to try it. Radicals, on the other hand, miss many opportunities for small advances because they are unwilling to settle for so little.

   But I reckon the statement of Slater's that most changed my world, or at least the way I experience it, is this one: "Our economy is based on spending billions to persuade people that happiness is buying things, and then insisting that the only way to have a viable economy is to make things for people to buy so they'll have jobs and get enough money to buy things."

    That's pretty important because it explains, among other things, why we have so many things that just a few years ago we would have considered luxuries, foolishness, or unreachable, and now consider essential for being part of that vacillating thing called the mainstream. The very laptop computer I am using to write these words would have seemed, back when I was in college, a science fiction dream, or at least an extravagance appropriate only to the idle rich. Nowadays, of course, one of the reasons that people are unable to save money and hence become either idle or rich is that we spend much of our combine incomes on various electronica, the acquisition of which demands us to work even more so that we can stay au courant despite having less and less time to use the things we've purchased. 
    These observations may appear very commonplace and possibly even trite to you, but to me, back in 1976, these kinds of thoughts were revelatory and remain so. In fact, you could blend The Pursuit of Loneliness, Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, and Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, and you'd essentially have the spirit of my personal approach to life, right along with all the contradictions that Walt Whitman could offer, including the lines "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."
    All of these thoughts and feelings are integral to my sense of myself as an American who has toyed with the idea of living anywhere but here. I like being able to wander, being free to spit my thoughts against the wall and laugh as the cat laps them up, of being inclined to pursue the silliest things I can imagine without having to apologize, of knowing that meteors will not land in my bedroom even though they very well might. 
    The best part is that I am not alone. I would very much dislike being alone in my idiosyncratic approach to being alive. I am still closely in touch with friends from high school, friends from college, friends from work and elsewhere whom I'm fairly certain share in these sentiments, although any one of them would probably state these feelings with less hyperbole, with more clarity, certainly in more succinct language, and definitely with less narcissism. 
Philip Slater

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LATER

    
   If and when I get old--by which I mean in the neighborhood of 89 or 90 years--I would like to become a Biblical character. In addition to establishing a semblance of immortality, this wish of mine, should it materialize, would also enable me to at long last do some possible good for society in addition to all the hurtful movie and music reviews I've written over the years. 
   The way I envision it is I'm sitting around staring at my birthday cake--the one the ladies in the harem at the rest home baked me--when out of a clear blue sky God strikes me with a lightning bolt which knocks me unconscious, as well as out of my chair, down the elevator shaft and out onto the gravel road (all the rest homes in my fantasies are located near gravel roads), where I lay or lie, as the case may be, until a torrential rain falls on my face and awakens me. As I stir, I realize that I have been blessed with a holy message (something to do with truth, logic or aesthetics--it really doesn't matter) that I must impart to a gaggle of primitive people who've yet to reach the state of enlightenment one might associate with a Tasmanian devil. 
    Grabbing a walking cane and some type of long and thin cloak, I would hobble through the woods, cross the rivers, brave the desert scorch and the winter winds, neither consuming food nor pooping, for forty merciless years. (I pick forty because in the Bible almost everything that happened took forty years, apparently a euphemism for "a very long time.") After so much distance and sacrifice, I would have established a reputation as either a crank or a sage, and once I reached my destination, I would look up into the hideous skies of Detroit, Michigan, feel the presence of dozens of sad and withered souls, and proclaim, "The minimum wage has been raised to nine dollars an hour!" 
   At this proclamation, some would no doubt cheer that economic salvation had at last been attained. Yet there would be those amongst the throngs and multitudes who would be filled with resentment and dissent, so much so that they would conspire together to entrap me in their evil. One of their number, a man named Quallo, emerges from the crowd of disbelievers and says unto me, "Our people of Detroit have worked hard for many years. We have received for our pleadings only Marshall law and the closure of our medical clinics. By what right to you come forth, old man as you are, to speak to us of this alleged blessing?"
    That being a pretty good question, albeit, a snotty one, I would respond, "I asked he that sent me the same question, fair Quallo."
    "Oh? And what did he say?"
    "His reply was 'I am that I am.'"
    "Oh? And what did you say?"
    "I said 'Thank you for clearing that up.'"
    This bit of levity would assuage most of those with dissent in their hearts, for the dissenter is always in need of a good jest. Yet clever Quallo would not be convinced.
   "I say that you are the devil," he'd declare. "You expect the companies of Detroit to raise our wages knowing full well that those companies will relocate overseas rather than pay us such salaries."
   This, too, would be a fairly useful argument. I would stand and stare for some time--although not for forty years--and at last I would respond, "You vassal! Your people are starving, yet you worry about the actions of the very industries that have torn down your city, impoverished your women and children, and left your roads and houses filled with holes. Thou putz! It is not the job of he who sent me to force morality onto the businesses for wish you work. It is only his job to see that when you do work, you are paid a satisfactory wage. If you fear the company will move to Belize, then you are welcome to seize the means of production, which some have said are rightly yours, and start up your own businesses. In the meantime, if you cannot help improve the situation, then please get out of the way and let someone who can take a shot."
    With this the people would be so moved that Quallo would be banished to Lansing or Dearborn, it doesn't really matter which, and the plants would once again roll, the workers would once again sweat, and the local economy would once again adjust itself like a man walking into a strip club. The people would celebrate and some would wish to thank me as the messenger. Of course, I would be gone, heading back to the rest home to find out if anything was left of that birthday cake.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

SPECULATIVE RELIGIOUS FICTION

   
   Here's my pitch for a movie I'd love someone to make: A corrupt international religious organization is exposed by a corrupt investigative news organization and vice versa. In other words, while the news program people attempt to reveal the underside of the Church, an investigative arm of the Church reveals the unscrupulous behavior of the activists at the news program. In the end of this proposed film, the two formerly opposing sides join forces, although, as in Orwell's Animal Farm, there arises an inevitable conflict: "There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously." As the final credits roll, the Church is using the news program as an arm of its propaganda division to dumb down society into becoming prospects for plucking while the news program garners fantastic ratings under the guise of exposing the "final truth."
    Perhaps someday such a project will be undertaken. As we await this occasion, we are free to enjoy the next best thing: a war between the Church of Scientology and a program by the BBC called Panorama. In 2007 the investigative news programme (their spelling) sent out a reporter named John Sweeney to gather information about L. Ron Hubbard's greatest achievement. They called the special programme "Scientology and Me." Sweeney narrates the half hour show with a tone not unlike that of Robin Leach of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" monotony. Indeed, the way Sweeney lingers over the word "stars" allows him to extend the word into no less than five syllables. It has been my observation that anyone using more than three syllables with the word is fawning. But that's a subjective assessment.
    In his expose, Sweeney uses for narrative consistency the plot that Scientology officials are spying on him as he performs his due diligence. One official of the Church, a man named Tommy Davis, does show up quite often, usually in a snit over the BBC showman referring to his community as a cult. It turns out the religious organization is a mite testy about the use of that word and Davis reacts by stating that if Sweeney is looking to stage a conflict, he has succeeded. Davis says something to the effect that if Sweeney uses that word one more time, he, Davis, cannot be held responsible for his actions. This is quite juicy meat for the Panorama people, as they spend considerable time filming employees of the Church filming them. 
   When Sweeney isn't suggesting that the Church has been referred to as a cult by disaffected members, he is tossing around the word "brainwashing." (At this point it seems only sporting to mention that certain words in the English language have, through imprecise usage over long periods of time, lost specificity and gained both ambiguity and a vagueness that renders those words meaningless. On a list of such terms or phrases I would include "church," "cult" and "brainwashing." A new euphemism has gained ground with social scientists and others regarding the word "cult," one which is abbreviated NRM, standing for New Religious Movements. Even that expression has potential to be offensive, especially if one is speaking of a religion that thinks of itself as being very old. Sweeney and his producer surely were aware their language was offensive. Ah, but that makes better television.) While bandying about these terms at Celebrity Centre, a couple of the rich and famous blow a fuse, among them Anne Archer and Kirstie Alley, the latter turning the question around by asking if Sweeney would put the same question to a Jew.
    While Panorama was filming the Scientologists, employees of the Church were indeed filming them back. As was made quite clear (pardon the expression) both by a Scientology movie called "Panorama Exposed" and by a follow-up of Sweeney's called "The Secrets of Scientology," Tommy Davis, Mike Rinder and others with the Church were employing what the Church at one time referred to as Fair Game tactics, in this case attempting to discredit the people who were trying to discredit them. In the follow-up to the Panorama broadcast, Rinder and a chap named Marty Rathbun explain that Davis had set up Sweeney and even provoked him into exploding on camera. One of the interesting tactics they used was to call out Mr. Sweeney as a "bigot," an emotionally charged word and one which they could be sure would antagonize the reporter. Another tactic was to constantly interrupt the reporter and to simply never let him get a word in without being interrupted, the goal being that Sweeney's emotions would bottle up and eventually come bursting out, as they in fact did. 
    Scientology's response film, "Panorama Exposed," in many ways comes off as vastly more professional than the programme it sought to discredit. They bring in all sorts of presumed experts in objective journalism to mention that it is standard procedure to get all sides of an issue rather than to begin with a preconceived notion and seek to only use video that supports that notion, or to stage events while presenting them as fact. The implication is that Sweeney routinely deviated from these standards of excellence. Speaking only for myself (and as someone who has little good to say about Scientology), it appears as if Sweeney was employing the shabbiest form of journalism, one formerly popularized by Mike Wallace and others. 
    There are several good reasons why the merging of these attempts at wrecking one another's careers would make a fascinating motion picture. First, I believe there is an impulse among the public at large to be disposed unfavorably about the Church of Scientology and its offshoots. Much of that distrust and suspicion may be well-earned. However, that does not negate the fact that many members of the organization have been involved in humanitarian projects across the planet. The Church's professed opposition to the field of psychiatry--famously espoused by actor Tom Cruise to a stunned Matt Lauer on "The Today Show"--may at least bear some consideration rather than being dismissed out of hand. 
    Second, the suspicion among many people that the news media as a whole is comprised of maggots who benefit the global power structure by anesthetizing the brains of the public has some basis in fact, as even a casual conversation with regular viewers of reality television quickly reveals.
    Third, the thought that someday these two enemy groups--each accusing the other of brainwashing their followers--will join forces to deplete the souls of humanity may at first blush feel ridiculous, although I doubt it's more ridiculous than the idea that Lord Xenu hurled Thetans into volcanoes millions of years ago. As a matter of fact, one could call the premise of this proposed film "speculative religious fiction," or sort of a "divine what if" scenario that becomes more probable as in our day-to-day lives more and more insidious behavior of those in power is unearthed by those others in power.
   
You may also want to read this and this.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

DRONES

    
   Item one: Philip Alston, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, has remarked that a person who merely engages in “political advocacy, supplying food or shelter, or economic support or propaganda” for Al Qaeda or its affiliates is not a legitimate target under international humanitarian or human rights law, because such conduct does not rise to the level of direct participation in hostilities.
   Item two: President Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser and current nominee to head the CIA, John O. Brennan, claimed in June 2011 that the US had not killed a single civilian since August 23, 2010.
   Item three: While the U.S. military has an interest in under-reporting the number of civilian casualties resulting from Drone attacks, the Taliban in Pakistan has a motivation to over-report, or exaggerate, the number of civilian deaths as a means of intensifying hatred of Americans and thus presumably recruiting more people into the political party's organization. 
    These three news items take on an interesting hue when held up in the light of reporting this week by Michael Isokoff, a Newsweek reporter and NBC contributor who may be recalled from the days of the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Clinton. (Indeed, Isokoff's role in stoking the flames of investigations is a bit beyond my kin to fathom. It was Isokoff who contacted Starr about possible hanky panky between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. He had learned of the relationship from Linda Tripp, although whether Isokoff just got lucky or provided motivation for Tripp has never been made clear.) The thrust of the reporter's piece comes from a recently released Justice Department Memo which discusses--among other things--the use of drones against American citizens overseas if those Americans are creating an imminent threat to American security. As Isokoff writes:
an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”
   All of this is significant because it appears that the face of war, or at least the mode of preferred combat, is no combat at all, merely strikes that go unanswered, or at least answered in ways that do not involve the adversary being able to directly respond. According to Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute's 21st Century Defense Initiative, "Many [in the military] have pushed for [drones] to play a greater role as the strikes slowly morphed from isolated, covert events into a regularized air war." 
    Since the Obama Presidency began in 2009, there have been 260 attacks of Predator or Reaper drones in Pakistan alone. Because the CIA is responsible for these attacks, the resulting casualty counts have not been forthcoming. 
   A group calling itself The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that it has found that since Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. They go on to say that a three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. (The expert reporter at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a fellow named Chris Woods. The Bureau says its four pillars of investigation are human rights, corporate corruption, health and open society.) 
   While I am not an apologist for the Obama Administration, I would guess that if pressed they would argue that the use of drones is preferable to traditional combat, both in the precision of its effectiveness and in the low incidence of fatalities of American troops. To this I can only say, "Well, yeah, sure." The problems, however, begin with the presumed virtues, something that is endemic to most air attacks: The person launching the attack is removed from the horrors of his or her behavior, thereby lessening the impact of any moral compunctions against committing the attack. (On the other hand, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, most unmanned aircraft flown by the U.S. military require not just a ground-based "pilot," but also a platoon of surveillance analysts (approximately 19 per drone), sensor operators, and a maintenance crew. Some 168 people are required to keep a Predator drone aloft -- and 180 for its larger cousin, the Reaper -- compared with roughly 100 people for an F-16 fighter jet. To keep up with the demand, the Air Force has trained more drone operators than pilots for the past two years. The upside is that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, drones "are usually less expensive than manned aircraft"--$15 million for a Global Hawk versus about $55 million for a new F-16-- though costly sensors and excessive crashes can negate the difference.) Furthermore, since we only have the CIA's word for the effectiveness as well as the precision, we really have no credible way of determining how many, if any, civilian casualties are happening. The very nature of covert activity is the necessity of lying, so perhaps I may be forgiven for questioning the veracity of the Agency. The final problem, of course, lies in the discretion over who to kill and that is where the memo referenced above comes in handy. When dealing in such curious and imprecise terms as "imminent," "activities," "combatant" and "high ranking U.S. official," the possibility arises that drones could very well be used against "the usual suspects," as well as against domestic enemies within U.S. borders. 

   

BOOB JOB

    Staples Center, Los Angeles, Corporation Mecca. It can only mean the Grammy's, the U.S. music's industry's annual celebration of itself and all the bad taste that comes with it. None of us here at PhilroPost will be suffering it, naturally. All the same, we think it's funny that the mofos at CBS have had the nerve to promote the snooze festival by sending out a memo to attendees telling them not to dress sexy because they know that'll be the surest way of getting their house slaves to attire themselves in the most revealing costumes imaginable, thereby increasing the ratings quotient from that gaggle of fans who add to their Gaze List the numb nuts who actually think Joan Rivers is funny.
   All the same, we do exist in the name of the public disinterest, so we must accede to the yawn impulse and share the alleged names of the nominees this year.

For Record of the Year, the nominees are:
"Lonely Boy" by the Black Keys.
"Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
"We Are Young" by Fun
"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye 
"Thinkin Bout You" by Frank Ocean
"We are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift

   The Black Keys' song is actually a decent rocker, nice and short, like it's supposed to be, and with a lot of new attitude while honing to a bit of roller tradition. It'll be my own pick, which means it hasn't got a chance.
   Kelly Clarkson's tune was so fey and predictable that I drowned it out after the first twenty seconds. From the over-produced breathy vocal to the hyper synthetic synthesizer rhythms, we get lots of references to young sex because, after all, Kelly invented it or something. Total shit. 
    Fun? When I first heard this, I assumed someone at Elektra had discovered an old Freddie Mercury outtake. That doesn't necessarily make it bad. It's just that a song about being young and hanging out in a bar feels kind of disjointed. 
   Gotye? Nothing especially wrong with this. All generations must produce people who don't know "that" from "who" and who must make songs that threaten to explode and never quite get around to it.
   Frank Ocean enunciates well. Whenever we have an awards show that celebrates a person's ability to enunciate while talking about vampire imagery, Frank will win hands down.
    I couldn't bring myself to listen to the Taylor Swift song. Y'see, her name is Taylor Swift, which, authentic as it may be, just sounds too damned contrived, kind of like Cartwright Whitney or Whitney Cartwright. 

    You may be surprised to learn that Record of he Year is not the only category of silliness that the industry is partying over. Aw, heck no. There's lots more. Here's the list:

  • Song of the Year (What's the difference between this and record? Beats us.)
  • Album of the Year
  • Best New Artist
  • Best Pop Solo Performance
  • Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
  • Best Pop Instrumental Album
  • Best Pop Vocal Album
  • Best Dance Recording
  • Best Dance/Electronica Album
  • Best Rock Performance
  • Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance
  • Best Rock Song
  • Best Rock Album
  • Best Alternative Music Album
  • Best R&B Performance
  • Best Traditional R&B Performance
  • Best R&B Song
  • Best Urban Contemporary Album
  • Best R&B Album
  • Best Rap Performance
  • Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
  • Best Rap Song
  • Best Rap Album
  • Best Solo Country Performance
  • Best Country Duo/Group Performance
  • Best Country Song
  • Best Country Album
  • Best New Age Album
  • Best Improvised Jazz Solo
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album
  • Best Jazz Instrumental Album
  • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Best Latin Jazz Album
  • Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
  • Best Gospel Song
  • Best Contemporary Christian Music Song
  • Best Gospel Album
  • Best Contemporary Christian Music Album
  • Best Latin Pop Album
  • Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album
  • Best Regional Mexican Music Album (including Tejano)
  • Best Tropical Latin Album
  • Best Americana Album
  • Best Bluegrass Album
  • Best Blues Album
  • Best Folk Album
  • Best Regional Roots Music Album
  • Best Reggae Album (By the way, four of the five nominees made their bones in the sixties and seventies, which means that Sean Paul, the reggae Pitbull, will probably win.)
  • Best World Music Album
  • Best Children's Album
  • Best Spoken Word Album
  • Best Comedy Album
  • Best Musical Theater Album
  • Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media
  • Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media
  • Best Song Written for Visual Media
  • Best Instrumental Composition
  • Best Instrumental Arraignment
  • Best instrumental Arraignment Accompanying Vocalist(s)
  • Best Recording Package
  • Best Boxed or Limited Edition Package
  • Best Album Notes
  • Best Historical Album
  • Best Engineered album, Non-Classical
  • Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
  • Best Remixed Album, Non-Classical
  • Best Surround Sound Album
  • Best Engineered Album, Classical
  • Producer of the Year, Classical
  • Best Orchestral Performance
  • Best Opera Recording
  • Best Choral Performance
  • Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
  • Classical Instrumental Solo
  • Classical Compendium
  • Contemporary Classical Competition
  • Short Form Music Video
  • Long Form Music Video

   Seventy-nine freaking categories! Can you imagine how nice it might be if that radio station you play on your way to work--the one that calls itself Mix. . . --actually played just one song from each of these categories every day? It might actually be fun to listen to the radio again, huh?
    In any case, no one will be paying much attention to the music Sunday night. People will be wondering what the nominees for Best Chamber Music Composition will be wearing and how much nipple gets exposed during the awards for best liner notes.