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,
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.
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
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
“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
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
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
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?!”)
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
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
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.”
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
So I’m like, surfing the net, you know.
And there’s this, like, article on Time.com 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:
product, made for you.
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
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