March 2018




Bigger Fish to Fry




No, I’m not a fan of “The Shape of Water.” And yes, I’m obviously in the minority. Though I do love fantasy, and love, love stories. I went absolutely gaga over The Artist, (and was in the minority on that as well), seeing new things in the silence of the lens of an old Hollywood tale (The Artist: Silence is Golden, MARCH, 2012 MUSE-LETTER).


Yet, “Shape” is the favorite to come up big on the 90th Oscar night. But who cares anyway? Do Oscars really matter to “people outside the industry?” You? Me? Yes and no, depending on the year.


Yes, when I’ve seen most of the top films and performances in nomination and get to play along in handicapping the field. It’s fun. No, when I pooh pooh the event in those years when my movie going has been sparse. I suspect that’s true of most people.


Entertainment Weekly notes that as a rule, “Oscar viewership tends to hinge on the popularity of the most-honored movies,” as opposed to those years with a heavy focus on indies. I would suspect alternative technologies for access, and who’s hosting, would be contributing factors as well to TV ratings.


But the Oscars absolutely matter (and need I add IMHO?), when they reflect in some way, the zeitgeist of the time. And, when we’re not singing in the rain as much as we once did, such as now, that invariably translates to celebrities at the podium making some sort of political or social statement. It has long since become as much a part of the show as the neutered golden statuettes themselves.


I remember Rod Steiger, a paunchy white guy, melodramatically stating “We shall overcome,” upon receiving his Oscar for portraying a bigoted Southern sheriff in “In the Heat of the Night” in ’67. And then there was that year when an “Indian” woman arrived in full tribal dress to receive the award in behalf of Marlon Brando for his Godfather performance. A thinly veiled protest against the treatment of Native Americans.


These sorts of moments invariably piss people off. As it recently did for Nikki Haley after another high-profile award show: “I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it.”


That statement is rather naïve, given the socio-political nature of much music, current and past. Not to further mention, that she works for a boss who has thrown the red meat of politics into everything but the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Though that could be next. (“‘Little Chico Chihuahua,’ from Mexico, was a disgrace. They’re not sending us their best dogs, I can tell you.”).


Clearly, more than ever, politics have intruded into every aspect of our lives. Look at the crossovers and blurring of lines, in particular, between church and state. And we’re calling out award shows for pontificating?


Which all brings me to “The Post,” a movie with bigger fish to fry than a fantastical aquatic romance. It is arguably the most important film of the year, though there’s no category for that. It speaks eloquently and dramatically to that which is decidedly not “fake news,” but far too real and frightening. The executive branch of the United States of America, a paragon of democracy, is at war with a free press. This seems a matter to which attention should be paid. Without a free press, no truth, no just cause or movement, sees the light of day.


Though almost fifty years old, the story concerning efforts to thwart The Washington Post (and The New York Times), from publishing the Pentagon Papers, is just as chilling today. If not more so, when you consider presidential tweets such as:

“The FAKE NEWS media…is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”

The enemy? A proclamation issued on more than one occasion and in tandem with suggesting that the FCC review and possibly revoke, the licenses of cable-news channels and network broadcasters that have been critical of the administration.


As has been noted many times, such tactics have been the staple of totalitarian regimes throughout history. John McCain, who seems the only politician who has been willing to buck the party line over the years, echoed this in an MSNBC interview last year:

“If you want to preserve— I’m very serious now— if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

In addition to that main message that “The Post” delivers to our doorstep, there is the personal and compelling backstory of Katharine Graham in her coming to a decision to publish the controversial documents. And it is hardly a sidebar, as it is so in synch with today’s women empowerment movements.


Finally, these themes are expressed by way of a stellar production and direction by Spielberg, and a great cast. In particular, as always, there is a letter-perfect performance by Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham (her 21st Oscar nomination!). In lesser hands, this all might have dissolved into a didactic boring affair.



It is puzzling to me, that “The Post” has not really gotten anywhere near the buzz that many other nominated movies have this year. Maybe it’s just generational. An ancient early 1970’s thing with a foregone conclusion. Ho hum.



It’s the longest of long shots. Not one major film critic has picked it to win. Spielberg wasn’t even nominated. And only four times in Oscar history has a Best Picture been unaccompanied by even a nomination for Best Director. A win, along with further commentary from the podium (look at what happened in the aftermath of Oprah’s Golden Globes speech), could call further attention to something we can easily become inured to, or bemused by — the repeated and flagrant attacks on the press. If we haven’t already. Sad.







Word of the Month



From the Greek word adunaton, meaning “impractical,” or “impossible.” A rhetorical device that is a form of hyperbole, in which exaggeration is taken to a great extreme where it seems impossible.


Used in a sentence:

One of the most famous examples of adynaton in English is the phrase, “I’ll believe that when pigs fly.”

Anecdotally, John Steinbeck was once told by a professor that he would be an author when pigs flew. When he eventually became a novelist, he started to print every book he wrote with the insignia ‘Ad astra per alas porci ’ (to the stars on the wings of a pig).







"When Pigs Fly”



I thought of this well-known expression (which I now know is called an adynaton), when I saw that Elon Musk brought such a sense of whimsy to a scientific event of much magnitude.


“Would you believe” (with apologies to Don Adams in “Get Smart”): a $100,000 cherry-red Tesla Roadster… “navigated” by a dummy (and no, not a “crash dummy”) named Starman… with David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on the car’s speakers… “Don’t panic!” stamped on the dashboard… and in anticipation that aliens might one day run across it, if not run over by it, “Made on Earth by Humans” imprinted on the circuit board… zipping through the open highways of space?


Yeah right. “When pigs fly.”



Though at 25,000 MPH, the car is way over the speed limit and need be careful. Uh oh.



I couldn’t resist. Whimsy begets whimsy. Musk himself owned up to it being “the silliest thing we can imagine,” and then when surprised that his audacious stunt worked, he tweeted “Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth.”

The original destination was ultimately the asteroid belt (“Are we there yet?”), but in revised data, we learn that it will…

“…take the Tesla about 18.8 months to complete one trip around the sun.

…(it) will cross the orbit of Mars twice per orbit, so Musk is still fulfilling his wish to send his Tesla ‘to’ Mars — it’ll just take a little longer between visits.”

More than I would want to know, as I still can’t get over the incongruous sight of a sports car in space, let alone its itinerary. Someone called it “human folly and genius rolled into one.” I might even suggest it as a piece of performance, or found art. Musk’s car is certainly more esthetically pleasing than Duchamp’s urinal.


At first, I didn’t realize these were real photographs (without the pigs and cop car of course). They have an almost fake look about them. So much so, I was at first expecting the standard TV footnote of “artist’s rendering,” that often accompanies visuals of out-of-this-world events. Especially, as the idea of a flying car has been such fodder for fantasy for so long.




By the way, talk about the potential for road rage rising to new levels? You don’t want to be in front of a tailgater rushing to get home from work, through the air space between skyscrapers to beat traffic. (“Hey, a-hole! What f-n planet are you from?!”)


Of course, space cars for commuters, is not what Musk’s ride is implying. It is intended to demonstrate that his private company, SpaceX, could launch a heavy payload into space and send it on its way via something called a “Falcon Heavy rocket.” Its thrust is second only to that generated in the Apollo lunar landing, putting him miles ahead of any competing company. So why not use a snazzy 3,000 pound car to demonstrate that payload capability?


But equally significant, while returning its three boosters back to earth for reuse. Something NASA hasn’t ever done. Something that is critical to cutting the cost of space flight by a factor of ten, and ultimately making a manned trip to Mars now financially feasible. To that end, this launch was considered a success, though the center booster did crash.


By now, MEGO—my eyes glaze over. For all the promise it holds, science can be dull and beyond comprehension. Especially by now, when it concerns space flight. Been there. Done that.


I have been pecking away at the keyboard over the years, about the 15 minutes—no, 5 minutes—of fame that tends to accompany the latest scientific discovery (Seven New Planets and Another Science Tease, APRIL, 2017 MUSE-LETTER). We’ve long since slaked our thirst on the Tang orange juice that went from the NASA program, to our supermarket shelves. This is especially true when it’s about something that can’t be seen with the naked eye (remember the Boson? AUGUST, 2012 MUSE-LETTER). Science is so adult. What Musk did, was so kid. And where government agencies are stuffy, entrepreneurs tend to take freer rein.


When astronaut John Young smuggled a corned-beef sandwich on board a Gemini flight many moons ago, NASA had a cow. So it should not be surprising to see a tweet from a Senior Advisor for Scientific & Exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA)—an intergovernmental organization—raining on Musk’s parade.

“It deeply unsettled me, tbh, as a whole pile of mixed emotions came tumbling down around me. Obviously, any view of the Earth like that is fantastic. But the whole semiotics of the car in the context of the political & environmental state of our planet ... too much.”

Something my old principal at Brooklyn Tech would have said before assigning Mr. Musk to a week’s detention. The semiotics in that tweet scream “Fuddy-duddy” (if indeed that pejorative is still in use). To address your unsettlement sir, you might consider Xanax. Which sounds like a space program in itself, come to think of it. (“The ‘Xanax .5 MG’ rocket is now on the launching pad…”).

We’ve been talking about sending someone to Mars, at least since the first lunar landing. Which astonishingly, is almost fifty years ago. Yet it never seems to materialize. Thankfully, in some cases. Such as that of Mars One, a private company with an insane approach to this quest (Who Would Like To Go on a One-Way Trip to Mars? MARCH, 2015 MUSE-LETTER).


From a governmental standpoint, it invariably has come down to budgeting issues and other earthy priorities. And after a while, if you believe in mankind’s (personkind’s?) imperative to explore, you think it too bad that this ship will never sail. If further given to metaphor, your sentiment might indeed be “when pigs fly.”


Enter Elon Musk. A billionaire with flare. Yet highly intelligent and in possession of sanity. And when you see his cherry-red car going where no car has gone before, on the strength of a real rocket and not some paper- plane of an idea, you think that maybe one day, after all, “pigs will fly.”













Going Millennial Over a Sweatshirt



So I’m like, surfing the net, you know. And there’s this, like, article on in big ass letters. It goes…


50 Years After 1968, We Are Still Living In Its Shadow


And I go, to my “bae,” “Awesome!” I just did a bit on that in my Muse (2018: A Year of Notable 50th Year Anniversaries; JANUARY, 2018 MUSE-LETTER). I don’t need no “milk.” I don’t need anybody “spilling the tea” on what’s so “lit.” And I’m not “woke” anymore, but I used to dig it. Though I know I been a bit “salty” with what’s going down. Just like I was in March of 1968, when I was “shook.”.


Maybe I’m being “thirsty” but I was there. And I want everybody, to like, you know, know that. Like when kids were “throwing shade” at LBJ (“Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today”), and he resigned on March 31st ? I was like, wow!


So when I see this sweatshirt, I gotta’ have it. 1968. I was there. I mean, you know.



And I swear, I was “draking,” when I hear MacArthur Park (“Someone left a cake out in the rain”), playing in the background on some oldies station while ordering it, because the song gives me all “the feels.” Cause I was with my main squeeze at the time and…ah, never mind. It’s all water on the knee.


I gotta’ make sure I get my order in, because there’s this clock running down telling me I have only six hours left to buy it, until they reach some goal and some kind of campaign ends. Sounds like pretty “extra,” but I want it. And here’s this social commerce company called Teespring, which was founded in 2011 by a 22 year old, selling it.


This don’t look like a “side hustle” because the company has like, this business model. Which is summed up on their site:

Every product, made for you.

Millions of people use Teespring to turn ideas into high-quality products. Shopping here means you’re supporting independent creators and the cause they care about. Everything you’ll find here is custom made with satisfaction and quality guaranteed.

Create…cause…care…custom. What’s not to love? Too Liberal?


“Your product will be made for you and shipped by our awesome team in Kentucky,” promises CEO Walker Williams.

I have socks older than this kid. You don’t know whether to congratulate him, or burp him.



The purchase is completed and I’m not gonna’ say what it costs. But will it be “amaze-balls,” or have I been taken to the cleaners? And am I really going to walk around at 72.5 years old, with a sweatshirt that says in all caps, AWESOME? I mean, where have all the flowers gone? And some dude might think, I’m like, trying to pass myself off as only 50. And that wouldn’t be “V” cool. I’ll just wear it around the house.







Quote of the Month: High and Low-Brow Translations








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