Who the Fuck Listens to This – Prophets of Rage

It’s been over a year since Prophets of Rage played their “surprise” 1 concert at the storied Agora Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio. After that event, the band played coy, suggesting that the show was a one-off specifically to protest the RNC, and that no one would ever hear anything from the band again.

They probably should have stuck with that idea.

Prophets of Rage is composed of former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, this time joined by Public Enemy’s turntablist DJ Lord, and legendary 2 rappers Chuck D and B Real. Clearly the non-Zach de la Rocha members of RATM are interested in being a backing band.  

To hear the band tell it, they decided to create Prophets of Rage as a new thing 3, out of the sheer, overwhelming demand by the people themselves that they come out of hiding and start another band where they play Rage Against the Machine songs. And then, of course, that they write new ones. But we’re not at that part yet.

At this point they’re still just posting things on their website like “dangerous times demand dangerous music” and giving interviews where their guitarist claimed to have 20,000 hours of practice at rocking crowds with his guitar, and that it is a service that he must provide to go out there with the Rage Against the Machine material that made him famous and Give the People What They Want.

And at this point, the band has my attention. As explained in FN2, I have a fairly long, deeply appreciative relationship with Public Enemy 4. I have a slightly longer, also deeply appreciative relationship with Cypress Hill. Concurrent to my appreciative relationships with these two rap collectives, I was also super into Rage Against the Machine.

Whatever else there may be to say about Rage Against the Machine 5, they were unquestionably a band. They were four people that learned how to play in conjunction with each other, and possessed – for whatever value you want to grant it – an alchemy that, frankly, three-quarters of them spent their entire second band 6 proving that they didn’t have without all four of them there. I still like those Rage Against the Machine records, and I always end up liking them a bit more after the non-rapping part of the band releases something else.

Of course, Rage Against the Machine was also an early lesson in figuring out where to believe the message, and where to believe the reality. The band wrote songs about smashing the system and not being a part of systems that are harmful and all that, but they recorded for a corporation (Sony), they appeared on heavily-branded package tours, they sold their music to a Gap ad 7, they did an ad for a denim company (I don’t remember which one) that ran in an issue of Spin that caused even your young correspondent to say “hey wait, that’s not very rage-y”.  

A more cynical person would look at this behavior and say “gosh, maybe they just figured out a way to commodify an attitude that turned out to be really profitable for them and they aren’t actually acolytes of it at all.” The passion of the music would seem to be otherwise, and so I will take the following position: I believe that the members of Rage Against the Machine thought that the power of their music did more good than the harm of making a bunch of money for a bunch of corporations whose intentions were worse than theirs. I believe that to the point where I do not feel a need to reconcile the two ideas, because it is all simply part of the same disagreement.

I still think it’s silly, but I get it.

So when Tom Morello came back out talking about how the people needed him, and how much he believed in this new incarnation of this band, and how they were on a mission, and how he, specifically, was devoted to using this music not just to edutain, but also to rock people’s faces off, I believed him.

When someone who makes music believes they have made the best music, I am more interested in it. If you started out with a vision, and succeeded in realizing that vision, then I am happy to hear what that vision communicates to me, knowing that you’ve done as good a job as you can communicating it 8. Tom Morello has proven that he knows how to make good records – he made them as a guitar player for Rage Against the Machine – and if he thinks he’s got some sort of second wind, well, why not come along for the ride? Especially since he’s hooked up with two other guys who also know what a good record is.  

Then they released an EP. It’s called The Party’s Over. It’s two Public Enemy songs, a Rage Against the Machine song, a terrible original, and a cover of “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” that they’ve renamed “No Sleep Til Cleveland” in a nod to their origins. It is not good! But it’s a covers EP by a band that’s pretty geared toward the nostalgia circuit, so there really wasn’t any reason to believe that it would be.

The band continued to exist, planning a tour, and eventually making a record. They released some songs in advance of the record, and they were…not as bad as the covers on the EP, but definitely not anything you’d want to spend any time with. All in all it seemed like this had all the rhythms of a bog-standard disappointing reunion, without actually being a disappointing reunion.

Which brings us to the actual release of the record, which happened a couple of weeks ago. Look, the shortest version of this is: it ain’t good. The band itself has spent more years not being Rage Against the Machine than they spent as Rage Against the Machine, and it kind of shows. The most glaring problem is that Chuck D is a very specific vocalist, and clearly has spent many years molding his musical approach around his own delivery 9, and the RATM members don’t really change their approach to accommodate that. So, having constructed a vehicle that was built for the specific, spidery agitprop shoutings of Zach de la Rocha, they put Chuck D behind the wheel to shout the same kinds of slogans 10 and he, of course, crashes it into a tree.

He still comes out a little better than B Real, whose role in the group is never very well-defined. B Real is a rapper who is more like Zach de la Rocha in approach and delivery, but he’s definitely not a sloganeer, and he’s also not much of a yeller either. He occasionally seems like he’s taking the Flavor Flav role 11, which doesn’t really suit him very well, but mostly he just kind of pops in and out of the record. I will say this: it’s a surprise every time, and on a record that needs its surprise, it isn’t unwelcome I guess. I mean, I’d rather that not be a high point in and of itself, but we can only play the cards we are dealt.  

The rest of the band doesn’t come off much better. DJ Lord was brought in to do some genuine turntabling, which he’s pretty good at, even if it seems like they absolutely did not need him to do any of it. It actually, as it goes on, contributes to the album’s extremely-dated qualities 12. The rhythm section – which is genuinely a great rhythm section, and is one I would classify as criminally underrated – goes through the motions, mechanically talented but not really doing anything they haven’t done several dozen times before.

And that brings us to the band’s spokesman/lightning rod/guitarist. Tom Morello made his name using his guitar and his pedals 13 to ape the sounds that other rap outfits would get out of turntables/samplers. It’s sort of the secret to why Rage Against the Machine were better able to hybridize heavy metal and rap – they weren’t relying on rap instruments to rock, they were making use of a guitar player with a highly-inventive mind and a willingness to lay aside most of his traditional technique to make the sounds necessary to swtich back and forth 14.

The problem, then, with Morello’s guitar playing is that willingness to abandon himself. It’s partly understandable – he’s had nearly thirty years of being praised for his guitar playing, and he does possess considerable technique, even traditionally-speaking 15. But even at his least rockin’ (“Bulls on Parade,” “Ashes in the Fall,” “Fistfull of Steel”), his parts still evoked something less like, say DJ Muggs or the West Coast hip-hop they were surrounded by at the time, and something more like, well, there’s no other way to say it, the Bomb Squad.

And that brings us full circle to why this doesn’t work. It’s sort of an alchemical storm of everyone being somewhat out of their element. The ex-RATM members are trying to recapture the spirit of a band that they haven’t been in in a very long time. The guitar player, specifically, is trying to re-enter a role that he left a long time ago and probably doesn’t have the mental wherewithall to re-enter 16. Hearing Chuck D stomp around in this lukewarm cover-version of RATM is double-heartbreaking – you want to remember this valliant, all-time-great, heroic figure as someone who could’ve done anything, someone whose voice is necessary, and instead you get Chuck D, a man who in his prime could’ve eaten every single Beastie Boy for breakfast and still had room for a couple of dudes in dumb hats, a man whose vocal delivery is set to “bellow” and who doesn’t even sound like he’s trying. Instead of B Real, the kind of scary, definitely-crazy sounding lyrical serpent, you get B Real, stoner with a megaphone.

Whatever the band’s intentions, whatever revolution they thought they were bringing to the table with this material, it’s awfully hard to hear over the sheer amount of nineties-leftover effluvium that they’re covering themselves with.

So who the fuck listens to this? Well, this is kind of a special case, because the question isn’t necessarily “who listens to this” as much as it is “who listens to this twice.” Anybody that was curious about Tom Morello’s stated enthusiasm, and the nigh-irresistable lineup would probably give it a shot. But I can’t imagine enjoying it. Even the high points – the B Real parts of “Strength in Numbers”, the breakdown in “Smashit” 17, the part where Chuck D just about wakes up in “Who Owns Who” 18, and “Living on the 101” generally 19

It’s “Living on the 101” that honestly makes the album seem even worse – they were so close with that one. B Real has the lead, it grounds its lyrical approach in things that are actually happening rather than just broad, base-titillating sloganeering, it doesn’t even have a particularly bad guitar solo. It makes more sense than most of the record, and everyone’s role is pretty well-defined. It’s still not good, mind you, but if it had represented the starting point for the record, rather than “the other B Real showcase” it might’ve all turned out a little better.

But of course, that’s also the song that is the least reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine, and in addition to being a political force, it is clear that this is also meant to be a profitable one. A profitable force….of rage. As it were.


  1. it was a “surprise” because once the band announced their existence, there were immediately rumors that they were going to do something at the Republican National Convention, which the band insisted was not going to happen. I think they insisted it was not going to happen all the way through the entire promotion process – which process was heavy and highly-visible – thus making it a surprise to literally no one. 
  2.  I mean, this record, and therefore this write-up, is not kind to Chuck D as a vocalist, but I am not going to deny that the part of Public Enemy’s career where they existed constantly – rather than intermittently – and made records is one of those things that manages to be simultaneously constantly-feted and equally deserving of every single piece of praise it has ever received. Cypress Hill’s legacy is a little bit less decorated, but I’ll put their first two albums up against anyone’s – even Public Enemy’s – any day, and B Real has, in the time since, proven that he’s still capable – albeit not as often as he was in the early days – of genuine greatness (even as recently as Dr Greenthumb’s The Prescription), which was released maybe a year before this fiasco got started. 
  3.  while it is true that the name of two of their bands contain the word “rage,” it is a more interesting question to me whether they asked Chuck D to be in the band before or after they named it after a Public Enemy song. 
  4.  I mean, I’m also a 34 year old white dude who’s into hip hop, so I’m pretty sure that just comes with the demographic. Doesn’t make it less true, however. 
  5.  some of which I’m going to say here in a minute 
  6.  the blandly forgettable Audioslave, with the late Chris Cornell 
  7.  more likely, Sony sold their music to a Gap ad. This still would not have been possible if they hadn’t sold their music to Sony in the first place. This is where the stuff in the nineties about the difference between major labels and independent labels came into play. For more on that, ask me about it twenty years ago. I think I was just starting to get really into it then. Still liked Rage Against the Machine tho. 
  8.  this is not to say that everyone who believes that they’ve fulfilled their vision is correct – the members of Kiss, for just one of a possible thousands of examples, have an extremely high opinion of their output, which is almost entirely music to drool into a bucket to. 
  9.  as every great vocalist inevitably does – this is not something he shouldn’t have been doing. 
  10.  this is maybe one of the biggest affronts to Chuck D – Chuck D wasn’t really a sloganeer, and to hear him try for the sorts of things that de la Rocha was good at and fail is just a reminder that he should be given a little bit more space and a little bit more time (like, within the music, I have no idea how much time had in the songwriting process) to be allowed to do what he does. 
  11.  actually, there are occasional spots on the record where B Real is taking the lead and Chuck D does his best job of being Sen Dog that almost make you believe that if they had just stuck with one lead vocalist – and that lead vocalist had been B Real – they would’ve been alright. 
  12.  it has been, conservatively, fifteen years since there were a bunch of rock bands with turntablists in them as a matter of course, and when it pops up it sounds immediately like 1999. 
  13.  and not even really that many of them. There’s like maybe eight of them – lists vary – and they haven’t changed much in a long, long time. 
  14.  Zach de la Rocha’s vocals do something similar – his ability to oscillate effortlessly between a hardcore-style scream and actual rapping is the band’s other secret weapon. 
  15.  we saw a bit more of this in Audioslave, and it’s easy to wonder if time spent in a band with Chris Cornell, who never made any bones about the amount of classic-rock traditionalism in his DNA, didn’t nudge him in the direction of showing that off a bit more. 
  16.  This is, personally, one of the things that’s so frustrating about the whole thing: I want Tom Morello to be seized by the desire to make music that he feels is necessary to the world’s survival, and to push the audience to their furthest corners, and to come up with a whole new way to enable people to yell “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.” I had hopes, is what I’m saying here. I wanted to believe. 
  17.  even though it makes me think of Maserati, which makes it the best solo on the album, because I quite like Maserati. I would listen to this solo for several minutes, which I know, because it sounds like Maserati, and I have several Maserati albums.  
  18.  even though Chuck D hollering “WE FUCKING MATTER” just makes me think of Kathy Bates now. There are no YouTube links to the relevant scene in American Horror Story to explain this reference, so godspeed to all of you who can hear it as it is. 
  19.  even though when they namecheck Calabasas I now just think of Mallory Ortberg. 

The 2017 Trainie Awards

It’s that wonderful time of year where I stop commenting on the awards given out to the deserving and undeserving alike and establish my own beliefs about who should be awarded things: it’s the 2017 Trainie Awards!

This year was a banner year for the Hot Take, and while none of these observations should qualify as that sort of abomination, it is true that many of them are about Hot Takes. The “Takes” environment has been welling up for awhile, and it seems to not be slowing down – it’s not a new thing to observe that the need to clamour for attention has made it seem necessary to respond to everything very quickly, and in a way that values the “uniqueness” of the statement over the quality of the statement.

All of which is to sort of explain the fact that this year most of the Trainies are for media events rather than genuine events (although a couple of them are genuine events, and stay tuned for the last one), and that two of them, specifically, are about warring tribes of Hot Takers, Taking Hotly.

Without any further ado, here we go.

Outstanding Achievement in Completely Inexplicable Blind Rage

This one starts with a Change.Org petition over a year ago to shut down the review-aggregation site rottentomatoes.com over their collection of terrible reviews for Suicide Squad 1. The petition was kind of funny 2, but the idea really took hold of a subset of the internet, with youtube videos and reddit posts 3 alike declaring that RT is biased against DC movies. This statement is where the thing develops at least three layers of silliness.  

The first layer is, of course, the notion that not liking a movie is only possible as a result of conspiracy. The DCU movies (generally – Wonder Woman proved to be a welcome exception) are the sort of heavily-stylized, world-heavy but plot- (and logic-. And character-) light expedition into a very specific kind of grimdark thought process that is certainly a known way to appeal to a certain kind of fan. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the movies have fervent defenders 4. What remains a shock to me is that people are still able to convince themselves that their opinions are the only opinions, and that the presence of any other opinion is not because people disagree with them, but because they are being willfully misled. The second layer of silliness, then, is about the misleading itself – Rotten Tomatoes is not a site that reviews movies, it is a site that aggregates other people reviewing movies. Getting mad at RT for the demonstrable fact that critics don’t like a movie on the record is like getting mad at your windows because it’s raining outside. It’s classic “shoot the messenger” thinking, except it’s one step removed even from the messenger – it’s shooting the person who made you aware of the existence of messengers.

Which brings us, then, to the third layer of silliness: this is deciding that an aggregator is somehow the tool of destruction for the studio that has an ownership stake in the aggregator. It’s, thus, a perfect storm of not understanding what it is you’re saying: you’re accusing Warner Bros of setting up a system whereby they’re hamstringing their own work for…some reason.

Like most conspiracy theories, this one falls apart when one tries to figure out what the benefit is for the people “conspiring.” What is the advantage of running down DC movies for the film critics thus aggregated? The idea that an entire class of people would be devoted to ruining the days of a few Batman fans is as hilariously misguided as it is outright baffling.

Outstanding Achievement in Deciding Something is So Good That It Is Actually Something Else

So Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize for literature, specifically for his song lyrics. This, despite song lyrics 5 not actually being literature. The second half of that statement seems to be the problem, but it shouldn’t be.

At the root of the problem, we have the basic fact that this is exactly the sort of “everything is everything” thinking that hegemonic thinkers are guilty of all the time – “I like it, therefore it is good, therefore it is the same as all other good things, and is therefore capable of being all good things.” This is extremely belittling to most things! Thus, it is difficult for me to see the praise for Bob Dylan’s Nobel win as anything other than an insult to Bob Dylan’s work.

Bob Dylan definitely set out to be a dude that made art using words, no question. But he didn’t set out to be a poet – he didn’t set out to make literature – he set out to be a singer. His words were used in a specific manner, and that manner has a specific context and idiom. That manner is created to be appreciated in a context with a specific result – Bob Dylan wrote songs (and not other things) in order to communicate something with his songs (and not other things) that could be communicated via songs (and not other things). To take a part of his art – the words to the songs, divorced from the performance or even the notation – and say “this portion of this thing is a completely different thing” is to debase both literature 6 and the very same folk/rock/songwriting traditions that Bob Dylan himself chose to work in 7. Whether Bob Dylan’s lyrics are good enough is not actually the thing that has been so honored here – it’s that Bob Dylan’s lyrics must somehow be converted to something they aren’t in order to win an award that goes to people whose intentions and set of decisions are in no way the same.

I have a cat who I like a great deal. Let’s call him William 8. He’s adorable and fuzzy, and he has a tendency to attack and devour things that are smaller than him 9. He’s pretty much in the top, like, five cats in the world, but I’m going to elevate him, for our purposes here, to call him the best cat 10. He sleeps a lot, he’s always hungry, and he straight-up-murderizes anything smaller than him that happens across his territory. But no matter how good he is at being territorial, predatory and hungry, he’s never going to be a bear. Because he’s a cat, and not a bear.

If someday they decide to have a best bear contest, and I enter William into it because I think that, frankly, he’s so good at doing bear stuff that he counts as a bear, I will be laughed out of the room, because obviously William is not a bear. This is exactly and precisely how we should feel about Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize – a song is not literature, literature is not songs, and you can’t be so good at one that it makes it the other. I am compelled here to point out, almost certainly unnecessarily, that I love songs, and also literature, and that I even like Bob Dylan. That’s why I’m making this argument: I think that it cheapens everyone’s ability to enjoy one or the other to insist that everything must, instead of being exactly what it is, instead be everything.

Outstanding Achievement in Assuming That People are, in Fact, So Dumb That if The Thesis Statement Were True Then We Never Would Have Survived as a Species

Human beings have been eating food for 200,000 years. This has given human beings a pretty sensitive and effective means to detect when something is good to eat or not, generally speaking. We have been cooking food for, at the absolute minimum, 20,000 years 11, which means that we have a pretty extensive grasp, again, collectively, of the various ways heat can be applied to food products. We have been writing down recipes for about 3,700 years.

Admittedly, something like 3,000 people 12 still manage to die of foodborne illness every year. That’s 0.1% of all deaths in America annually. So all of that experience is imperfect. If this study from North Carolina State (published in the British Food Journal) is to be believed, all 3,000 of those people are cooking that last, deadly meal from a cookbook that doesn’t include proper food safety instructions with every single recipe.

Now, this study isn’t itself the winner of the Trainie, but it’s necessary to spend a little bit of time talking about what it’s doing here. The methodology (see the link in FN12) involved going through individual recipes from NYT best-selling cookbooks to see if every single recipe contained food safety information. 8% of the recipes listed a final safe cooking temperature within the recipe, and 34 of the recipes gave outright unsafe information 13. I have no doubt this is true. It does not allow for two things, however. The first is tremendously prosaic: a quick survey of the few dozen cookbooks in my possession (plus a handful at the library) shows that most of them do contain safety information – including safe temperatures – at the beginning, or as a table in the endpaper or something. The second thing that it fails to control for is that the cookbooks in my 14 observations that don’t have this kind of information are hardly the kind of cookbooks that you’d expect a beginner – the class of people who are most likely to not know what they’re doing in that regard – to be cooking out of.

But more than either of those things, it also completely fails to address just why, exactly, it’s approaching this from the notion that every recipe should contain the necessary food safety instruction. That did not stop the reporting on this study, however, from running with the results. Livescience decided that the results themselves were not enough, and had to, in addition to the usual out-of-proportion Hot Taking, add the fact that saying “cook for three hours or to a specific temperature” was somehow contradictory information 15. Taking a different tack, Food and Wine decided to lay all of the blame for everything at the feet of Gwyneth Paltrow, who had recently published her own cookbook, which is definitely a version of reality that does not exist, but could if you squint I guess! 

Food safety is, of course, a matter of great importance, and obviously people should take every precaution necessary to not get sick. But choosing a portion of a book and deciding that it represents the entirety of that book and then yelling about it not including a thing (when that thing is probably elsewhere in the book) is pretty silly, but even more than that, pretending like that study is finding some sort of catastrophic tragedy is being even MORE silly.

Outstanding Achievement in Intergenerational Warfare

Millennials, in case you haven’t heard, are the worst, most irresponsible, least-attached, most disappointing generation in the history of generations. They are, of course, responsible not just for everything that is wrong with everything, but also they are responsible for it by dint of being so darn self-centered and frivolous. We can insert something about participation ribbons and snowflakes and stuff. You know how this goes.

This, the worst discourse in the world, found its very own apotheosis in the form of this completely un-self-aware, completely insane rant from Australia. The guy posits that home ownership is the foremost desire of all people, then suggests that the reason that millennials don’t own homes is because of their crazy food obsessions – in this case, avocado toast specifically.  

There are a handful of things that are sort of buried in this cockamamie argument: that young people don’t have the same values as old people because of some failure on their part 16, that young people are so obsessed with the optics of their food consumption that they are unable to be sensible, and that avocado toast is the outward-most intersection of these two things.  

There isn’t much to say here except: someone will have to work very hard next year to take the .spot of “dumbest Take on millennials” from this guy. This is even dumber than last year’s business about cereal! It sort of comes all the way back around from a position that seems execrable and infuriating to almost being kind of cute.

Outstanding Achievement in Using the Internet For Its Exact Ideal Purpose

Jim Davis said, innocuously, two years ago, in an interview for a Mental Floss article, that part of Garfield’s appeal was that Garfield was a cipher – he had no human correspondence. When he listed the qualities that Garfield didn’t possess he included gender – “he’s not really male or female,” the most successful cartoonist in history says about his most successful creation. Virgil Texas from the excellent Chapo Trap House podcast noticed that he had said this, and immediately updated WIkipedia to reflect Garfield’s status as not having a specific gender.

What followed was, quite simply, the greatest Wikipedia edit war in history. The edit history is there, of course, but it’s perhaps this Washington Post article that sets everything up the clearest. Please understand that I am not exaggerating when I say: this is my favorite kind of thing, and the reason why I believe we need an internet.

Each side – the people that want Garfield to be gender-fluid and the traditionalists that insist that he is referred to as male, and therefore is male – contains people who are clearly enjoying the joke, and people who seem – to all outward appearances – to be completely serious about this. An enormous, motivated group of people all activated to roll on Wikipedia with a war that ended in four citations for Garfield’s gender, all because of a literalist comedian who read an article in Mental Floss.

This is, sometimes, a beautiful world full of beautiful people. That said: everybody knows that the real gender fluidity questions revolve around Nermal.

Outstanding Achievement in Just Generally the Coolest Thing That Could Happen to Anybody

Lynda Barry draws comics. She’s the kind of artist that I’m forever championing in this space – fiercely her own thing, doing it for her own reasons and getting her own fulfillment out of it. She worked very hard in some very challenging areas to create a comic that combines a childlike art style 17 with mental and emotional truths that are possible to identify with, but not in a way that makes one feel good about all that.  

Lynda Barry also loves Family Circus. Her words on the matter are:

“My absolute favorite comic of all time is…are you ready? It’s Family Circus…The reason why I loved Family Circus so much was because I came from a very difficult, violent, horrible home and I look in that circle and see a happy little life. And I always wanted to get to it. And I realized when I shook [Bil Keane’s] hand that I had come through the circle. I was on the other side. And the way I did it was by drawing a picture.”

This is pretty well-explained 18, but it also represents an important idea, and is in fact where I formed my belief that it is an important one: people come from all sorts of places. I’m no fan of Family Circus, but if Family Circus forms a bit of the firmament that gave us Ernie Pook or What It Is, then Family Circus is indispensable.

But more than that, Lynda Barry did a thing that people aren’t always willing to do: she said she had a favorite. An actual by-god favorite. She didn’t hedge by saying “one of” or “among my” or any of that. She connected deeply with a piece of cartooning in such a way that it was her (singular, public, avowed) favorite.

And earlier this year, she appeared in Family Circus. Her tumblr post on the matter is here, and it includes the cartoon, and, well, it’s pretty hard to imagine being happier for a person that I’ve never met than I am for Lynda Barry that this happened.

Sometimes it’s a beautiful world, full of beautiful people.

 


  1.  a movie that is, even despite its rt score, more well-reviewed than it should be. Lordy that movie is awful. 
  2.  it is unclear now if it was meant as a joke or not. It seems likely that it is a kind of Schroedinger’s joke, where the reaction of the public to the statement dictates how seriously it was meant. 
  3.  these two are far from the only examples, they’re only here as a representative sample. 
  4.  partly because, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, I came of age during the end of the original grimdark dork age, so I’ve been aware that the DCU-style NONE MORE GRIM, NONE MORE DARK method of storytelling is a thing that appeals to a set of the comic-book-related populous for basically my entire life. 
  5.  and, of course, leaving aside the idea of melody entirely, with which song lyrics should be inextricably intertwined but which they are not, because, well, here we are.
     
  6.  it is now, as of this precedent, possible to be an award-winning literarian without in fact creating anything literary, but instead by creating something which is, via tortuous reasoning, declared literary due to its popular impact in a completely different medium. 
  7.  it is now, as of this precedent, possible to be so good at writing songs that they somehow cease to be songs at all. 
  8.  because his name is William.  
  9.  mostly bugs, but once a mouse, and once a dustbunny made of his own fur that he (and I) thought was a mouse. 
  10.  because he is the best cat 
  11.  this New Scientist article sheds some light on it, but the fact remains that we only have hard evidence as of 20,000 years ago, although it’s likely that we’ve been cooking for much longer than that. 
  12.  according to the CDC. 
  13.  that one number is expressed as a percentage and the other is expressed as a numeric data point is its own weird problem, but we’re not going to worry overmuch about it here. 
  14.  admittedly self-selected, anecdotal, and extremely non-scientific 
  15.  quick refresher on English’s shortest conjunction: “or” is exclusionary! It means either one thing or the other! So it can’t possibly mean both! Which means that a sentence that hinges on the word “or” cannot contain contradictory information on either side of the “or”! 
  16.  a belief/argument that is as old as old people, frankly. The world changes over a lifetime, and the first time somebody hit, say, sixty, they turned around and said “all you dumb kids are doing it wrong”. And then they cooked food and killed each other because they didn’t have recipes with specific instructions on how not to do so. 
  17.  actually it’s only superficially childlike. Lynda Barry has incredible control over her pen, and a sense of composition that is deeply under-rated 
  18.  although it doesn’t address that Bil Keane also had a very organized, clean compositional sense, and a very sure line, both of which are things I just praised LB for exhibiting, although they don’t share much in common beyond that.  

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

The Emmys stand, such as they are, as the first of the serious awards shows in the five-month block that straddles the outgoing year and the incoming one. They’re also kind of the easiest of the major awards shows to take seriously – not because television itself is a medium worth taking seriously, but because they are fairly straightforward 1, and because they don’t have quite as much baggage imposed by their own long-winded self-importance 2. They’re a marketing concern, certainly, but much less a sales tool than other awards shows 3. They’re sort of the stock, neutral awards show – reasonably respectable, right some of the time, wrong most of the time, generally entertaining, and entirely too long.

Of course, this is all leaving aside that there is far too much television in general, and this is all a nightmare to try to sort through. But here I am doing it anyway, because I love you.

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Actually, I lied – this category is kind of incoherent. A limited series (which will run for several serialized hours) is a different from a movie (which runs over a couple of hours, viewed ostensibly in one block), which is nothing much like a dramatic special (a kind of “catch all” category, for all sorts of things written all sorts of ways). So to lump them all together here is pretty crazy 4, but I suppose it’s done in the interest of this being a “miscellaneous” category rather than trying to round up a whole category’s worth of nominees in each varietal. HBO has something of a history of making miniseries happen with varying degrees of success. The Night Of  5 somewhat less so than the highly-talked-about Big Little Lies. Neither of them was the best here. Black Mirror continues to be more fun to read about than to actually watch. Fargo set a new record for wheel-spinning, before careening into a crash-finish. The two episodes of Feud are both excellent, but the Oscars episode is a genuinely incredible piece of writing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Murphy 6, Feud: Bette and Joan (episode: “And the Winner Is…(The Oscars of 1963)“)

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

It remains crazy that this is still called “variety” series, despite the fact that only Saturday Night Live has any real claim to that particular distinction. So this category is SNL and former-SNL head writer Seth Meyer’s version of Late Night 7, and three former Daily Show correspondents’ Daily Show-style cable shows. I mean, my alliances lie where they always do. With Samantha Bee.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

The Americans and  Better Call Saul are fine shows that are written well, but one of the advantages of living in the future 8 is that I can also say that they, as self-serious “realistic” stories, are less interesting to me in what they can do and say about the human condition and the role of people in the larger Whole Sort of General Mish Mash than things where they get to make things up to heighten reality 9. Of course, Westworld does all kinds of crazy non-real shit and it’s not really any better. It is, in fact, in any substantive way, worse than The Americans. The Crown isn’t really better than much of anything, so we don’t have to spend any more time on it. The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things have a surprising amount in common – they both have to introduce a bunch of characters and a world and the rules for those characters and that world in short order, to clear space to be able to tell a very specific story. They also both have huge crutches they are able to lean on – Handmaid’s Tale in the form of the original novel, Stranger Things in the form of being able to borrow the grammar and visual shorthand of the eighties-horror-material it was inspired by. Ultimately I think The Handmaid’s Tale does the better job of introducing, even if I’m not as entertained by it. The book is great, though. Everybody go read the book.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Atlanta is the best show on television. “B.A.N.” is the best episode of Atlanta 10. There is no further equivocation needed.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “B.A.N.”

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

True story: much of the lead up to The Night Of touted Steve Zaillian’s involvement in All the King’s Men, but he’s also totally the guy who directed Searching for Bobby Fischer, the movie about the child chess prodigy/total psycho that I am the only person on Earth who remembers. He doesn’t deserve this Emmy. Neither does the other guy that directed episodes of The Night Of, James Marsh. Ron Howard is still Ron Howard, and works his amiable, workmanlike uh….magic on Genius, which is fine but not really anything I’d call award-worthy. This brings us back to Fargo vs.Feud, and I’m going to go with the directing job that also had to fake-stage the Oscars as part of its regular television duties. I’m a sucker for spectacle, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Murphy, Feud: Bette and Joan (episode: “And the Winner Is…(The Oscars of 1963)“)

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series

Half of this category is late-night shows, which is fine, but which have their directorial needs pretty well static: even when there are exterior bits and skits and things, they’re still all handled in basically the same way. They have to be, due to the volume of content produced for each late night show. Saturday Night Live is in a similar boat, with all of its tricks and things well-established by now, and its directorial job is fairly straightforward, if occasionally beset by a bit of filligree like (the here-nominated) Jimmy Fallon’s single-take long hallway walk to a David Bowie song 11. Last Week Tonight doesn’t have quite the same situation, and some of their segments go afield a bit, but Drunk History has actual sets and performances and stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jeremy Konner and Derek Waters, Drunk History (episode: “Hamilton”)

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

Unlike with writing, where I value making things up over just sort of making things very slightly different 12, directing is one where it sort of has to be evaluated case-by-case. Sometimes it is more difficult to set up the scene for the actors to perform and to get them to do what they want as humans, and easier to just program a computer to make, say, a monster-thing from the Upside Down appear to threaten a child 13. Sometimes it’s the other way around. All of which is to say that the creation of any television series is a rich tapestry of efforts, and also the best-directed drama is The Handmaid’s Tale.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Handmaid’s Tale (episode: “Offred”)

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Atlanta is the best show on television. “B.A.N.” is the best episode of Atlanta 14. There is no further equivocation needed.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta, “B.A.N.”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

I’m sure that Michelle Pfeiffer did a fine job in The Wizard of Lies, but there’s no way that it’s worth watching to evaluate that claim. Big Little Lies was an interesting piece of writing and stuff, but I don’t necessarily know if either Laura Dern or Shailene Woodley did the best acting job I’ve seen out of either of them 15. Judy Davis was pretty good on Feud, Jackie Hoffman was great on Feud 16. Regina King continues to be criminally undersung for her work in American Crime.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Regina King, American Crime

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Look, there’s a bunch of fine Capital-A acting in these categories, and there’s also a bunch of capital H 17 Ham in these categories. Nobody in this category can Acting their way out of the fact that The Tooch was loose in Feud, and he was amazing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stanley Tucci (as Jack Warner!), Feud: Bette and Joan

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

A couple of things are true here. The first is that every time I see Kate from This is Us’s last name (Pearson), I think of Kate Pierson, and think that I’ve missed the high-profile prestige television biography of the B-52s that my heart has been singing for lo these many years. The second thing is that one of these performances literally made the actor a star, and that means it’s the best one, by the rules of things I just made up just now. So sorry, Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley and Uzo Aduba. And also somewhat less-sorry, Chrissy Metz and Thandie Newton. But this is not ‘Nam. There are rules.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

I think that the people at the Emmys think that if they don’t nominated Mandy Patinkin for Homeland every year, some sort of Lovecraftian horror will devour them. Although it’s also the case that generally this category is where some real snoozefests are lying in wait: John Lithgow is as good as anybody is on The Crown, and Michael Kelly is fine on House of Cards, but honestly who cares? At least This is Us is a reason to gratuitously be made sad or whatever by your television 18. Which is, y’know, like a reason to watch something, I guess. It seems good enough for a lot of people. Anyway, it’s David Harbour.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Harbour, Stranger Things

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

I know that it is officially hacky at this point to point out that Transparent is not actually a comedy, and I’m not here to harp on that, but I am going to say this: if you want to reward the best performance that uses the skillset of a comedy performer, then you should probably stay away from a show where no one is laughing at anything ever. Sorry, Kathryn Hahn and Judith Light. Anna Chlumsky is nominated for her part in Veep a lot, and I suppose that’s fine, but it’s not this year’s best. The other three nominees are Saturday Night Live performers, and why not give it to Vanessa Bayer, who just left the show, and who has the rare 19 distinction of creating her possibly-funniest character right before she left the show 20.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Vanessa Bayer, Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump isn’t even the best Donald Trump impression on television, let alone the best performance. Ty Burrell is here for the same reasons as Mandy Patinkin 21 . There can’t still be people that are excited about Phil Dunphy’s continued televisual existence. Louie Anderson’s performance in Baskets remains tremendously inspired, but the remaining three are probably my three favorite comedic supporting characters on television. I want to say that it should be Tituss Burgess, because I think I’ve given it to Tony Hale and Matt Walsh in the past. But that’s just me not wanting to make the tough call, here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tituss Burgess, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

I mean, I suppose that it’s thematically appropriate that there is a world (it’s this one!) where the people who played Joan Crawford and Bette Davis are competing against one another for the same award. That’s nicely poetic, and someday when Ryan Murphy starts cannibalizing the career of Ryan Murphy to make Ryan Murphy shows, it will be the centerpiece of a pretty good episode. Recursion!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

The presence of Benedict Cumberbatch in this category suggests that either someone did like the last season of Sherlock, or that the Emmy nominators think someone did. Either way, this is sick and sad. Whatever there is to like about The Night Of, it made both Riz Ahmed and John Turturro boring, and that’s equally sick and sad. I’m sure that an Emmy nomination was basically guaranteed for The Wizard of Lies when they got Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert de Niro 22, which is sick and sad, because it’s terrible. It was probably less guaranteed for The Genius, but still seemed pretty likely, given that Geoffrey Rush attracts award attention like I attract mosquitoes. Truly, it is sick and sad. That leaves us with Ewan McGregor for playing two characters in Fargo, one of whom was sick, and one of whom was sad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ewan McGregor, Fargo

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Honestly, I’m pretty sure this is one of the most foregone-conclusion awards-show categories since I started doing this (if not longer). There are probably not going to be any surprises here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

More This is Us, this time in the form of Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown! This is me: a frustrated person! Also Kevin Spacey in this category again. Again. To make things worse, the only real newly-arrived performance to this category is Anthony Hopkins’s serviceable one in Westworld. So instead of Bob Odenkirk or Liev Schreiber, I think I’m going to default to Matthew Rhys for The Americans and then blissfully stop thinking about this category until next year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

At least everybody in the comedy lead categories (both of them, even) is someone I can get behind liking. Hell, this category was downright difficult! Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin split the vote for Grace and Frankie – you can’t have one without the other anyway. Allison Janney puts forth a noble effort in a terrible show 23. Tracee Ellis Ross is probably giving the funniest performance on network television. Julia-Louis Dreyfuss is definitely giving one of the funniest performances of all time. But Ellie Kemper did better this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ellie Kemper, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Atlanta is the best show on television. Donald Glover is the lead actor 24. There is no further equivocation needed.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

So many of these started out good and have fallen so far. Pour some out for the still-shambling husks of formerly-compelling reality competition programs.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Ninja Warrior, at least until it collapses into a near-parody of its currently-robust self.

Outstanding Television Movie

Wait, two of these are FULL-ON episodes of ongoing series. This renders everything I said about the categories making sense a damnable lie. Damnable, I tell you.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Certainly not the forces of logic and goodness, I tell you what.

Outstanding Limited Series

See, Limited Series is right here. Right where Sherlock or Black Mirror could be. I mean, in a just world they wouldn’t be, but they could be anyway. Anyway. The Night Of: still boring. Genius: still deeply unnecessary. Fargo: still kind of a mess. Big Little Lies: still entertaining, but still not the best. Feud: still practically perfect in every way.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Feud: Bette and Joan

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Aw, guys! It’s Billy on the Street! I love Billy on the Street! I guess if I have to live in a world where Difficult People isn’t nominated for every award all the time, I can console myself with the fact that here’s Billy on the Street.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Billy on the Street

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

As we get further up the list to the more general show-specific categories, the shows that I feel should win require less explanation. For example, this one should go to Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, because it is the best show.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee

Outstanding Drama Series

This one is slightly trickier. This is Us, House of Cards and The Crown are right out, for reasons previously stated. Better Call Saul and Westworld are fine, I suppose 25. But this Stranger Things v. Handmaid’s Tale match has been brewing this whole time. At its root this is actually a much bigger question. To wit: is it better to have made a television show that is engrossing and entertaining, a television show for people who believe that fiction should be a way to shut out the realities of the outside world, and enter a world where the monsters are literal, and visible, and the evils are largely clearly-delineated? Or is it better to enjoy fiction that reframes the real world through an unreal lens, where the evils that besiege us everyday are presented realistically as being the result of human behavior, even if the world around the humans is substantively different than the regular old real world where we all live?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Handmaid’s Tale. The real villain, like in Bambi or several dozen Twilight Zone episodes, is ourselves.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Atlanta is the best show on television. There is no further equivocation needed.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Atlanta

And there we have it. Now I’m off to watch Atlanta again, and pray for the cancellation of This is Us.


  1.  that is to say, each of the categories more-or-less makes sense, and they seem delineated in such a way that makes it apparent why that particular category exists as compared to all the other ones. For an example of what the opposite of this is, see the Creative Arts Emmys. 
  2.  cf The Oscars 
  3.  cf The Grammys 
  4.  it is only slightly less so in the acting categories, but that’s because acting, while still dependent on the specific rhythmic structure of the thing being acted, is a little bit more independent of that structure, while the writing itself is literally nothing but that structure. 
  5.  which came out literally fifteen months ago, which is insane and seems like it can’t possibly be nominated in the right here and yet, here it is. 
  6. He wrote this episode solo! And it’s good! And it’s not even a little bit insane! 
  7.  which was ok for awhile, and got much better post-election, which is nice. 
  8.  or at least, in this particular entertainment environment 
  9.  the argument I’m making here is one that people that know me are familiar with, but for those of you who don’t: I’m saying that if you have more control over the world, specifically by allowing for the presence of the “unreal”, then you have more opportunity to work with the tools available to the entirety of the mind, rather than grounding your story in “Realism,” which is an impossible goal anyway. I may say some more in the future about how I don’t believe there is any such thing as “realistic” fiction, at least not in the way that most people mean it, but this footnote is not the time to do so. Also NB I like plenty of realistic stuff, and I’m not ruling it out as a, y’know, mien or whatever, I’m just saying it’s not where the best stuff is in this category, or most other categories. 
  10.  technically it is tied for the best. See previously. 
  11.  which is, I’m sure, an impressive and difficult thing to do well, but also it’s the sort of thing that happens more or less once a year, so it can’t be a huge stumbling block at this point. 
  12.  see FN 9 
  13.  with space here to also acknowledge that it is true that the performance of the child in question must be directed, but I’m also willing to concede that more than half the effort there is actually on the part of the actor. 
  14.  technically it is tied for the best. See previously. 
  15.  it is entirely possible that it is the best acting I’ve seen out of Shailene Woodley, but that’s because I haven’t seen any of the good movies that Shailene Woodley is in, only the dumb ones. 
  16.  but really should have been nominated for last week’s awards in the guest appearance category for her role as Rachel in Difficult People. Truly, the woman is a genius. 
  17.  and, in Judy Davis’ case, capital A and also capital M 
  18.  I mean, it has pretty uniquely failed to stir any sort of emotional response from me, which is weird, as it is super duper easy to evoke an emotional response in me. But people keep talking about it in terms of how much it makes them cry, so I am left with basically no choice but to believe them. 
  19.  she may actually be the only person to have done it 
  20.  the update weather-woman who couldn’t talk, who appeared twice, including in her last episode 
  21.  Lovecraftian horror. See above. 
  22.  who hadn’t acted in the same thing since Stardust, in which they didn’t share any scenes, but which is way better than The Wizard of Lies. 
  23.  Anna Farris, who’s absent from this category this year, also puts forth a noble effort in the same terrible show, which really makes one wonder why the show is so terrible. 
  24.  and creator, and usually-writer, and sometimes-director. NB also that Atlanta’s two best episodes (“Value” and “B.A.N.”) don’t actually have Donald Glover in them. 
  25.  Better Call Saul slightly moreso than Westworld 

Grant Hart

I can’t cry, I can’t apply a word to sum it up
Under stress I can’t repress the moment it erupts
Hear the sound of paper drums and shredded paper voice
Got to turn up ‘Keep Hanging On’ as if I had a choice

Prairie fires and pitchfork choirs inspire as they create
Turn it up, It’s too far down, until we can relate
Minnesota New Day Rising first day in the store
Take the couch at someone’s house and wait around to score

Nervous children making millions: you owe it all to them
Power trios with big-ass deals: you opened for it then
I can see, I can see, I can see it all with my one good eye
For a start take two Grant Harts and call me when you die

– The Posies, “Grant Hart”

 

 

Grant Hart never really gave people what they wanted.

He began his career as the drummer for punk rock’s top-dollar best trio 1, and a bunch of what has been written about Grant Hart, since his death and otherwise, focuses on his role as the sweet-natured “McCartney” to Bob Mould’s thorny “Lennon” in their tenure as 67% of Husker Du. People would go to see Husker Du, and expect a wall of very loud, impenetrable noise, and instead would, every few songs, be given a boppy, strummy bit of business that got lodged in their heads 2. Except sometimes, when he would even drop the noisier, louder elements (“Statues,” “Never Talking to You Again”) and go straight-up folk weirdo.

Even despite being responsible for the seemingly-poppier moments in Husker Du’s catalog, Grant Hart was also an impeccable drummer, with an incredible musical ear and an ability to beat the holy hell out of his drums that didn’t seem one bit out of place in the band’s unholy racket. They would, within a few years of their inception, produce one of the all-time-greatest hot streaks: Zen Arcade was released in July of 1984 3, New Day Rising in January of 1985, and Flip Your Wig in September of 1985 – and then a glide to a stop a few years later.  

This isn’t about the end of Husker Du 4, but an opportunity to say this: opinion is divided on how bad Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories actually are, with some insisting that they’re not even in the same league, and some claiming they represent only a minor step down. Bob Mould’s songs are especially getting away from their breakneck-tempo roots, and that colors a lot of how one responds to the record. The best songs on those last couple of albums, though, are unquestionably Grant Hart’s. “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” and “Sorry Somehow” carry Candy Apple Grey, and “She’s A Woman (And Now He is a Man)” (from Warehouse) really should have been the radio hit they were swinging for 5.

After Husker Du imploded, one of punk rock’s then-greatest drummers decided to abandon that instrument (Grant Hart never gives anyone what they want) and sit down in front of an organ for his first solo record, Intolerance, in which Hart returned to hardcore-bastion SST Records, fresh out of his former band – the greatest hardcore band in the world – and…made a sixties-pastiche record. And it is great 6 – like a Van Morrison record that doesn’t suck at all. Or like if you took all the component parts of Donovan and used them to make an actually good record. And then replaced like seventy percent of the instruments with an organ. Something like that.

Having established that he could do that, he assembled another band entirely – Nova Mob – and made a concept record about Pompeii, because he wanted to. That band was around for five or so years, during which time they would make two self-titled records (the second of which is the best record Nova Mob made, and which features exactly one musician – Grant Hart – in common with their first record). The records are fine, with some great songs throughout, and wavering musicianship 7.

Having established yet another band, Grant Hart dissolved that one, too 8. He did not, however, allow that to stop him from his plan of recording a live album (which plan was underway before the band broke up). Ecce Homo was meant to have been an acoustic Nova Mob album, and instead is Grant Hart, performing Grant Hart songs in a solo, acoustic environment 9. It’s an improvement on some of the original full-band versions of some of the songs production-wise, and none of the versions are actively any worse 10. It’s probably the best single-album introduction to the work of Grant Hart that exists currently.  

Having moved from the folksy, internally-focused solo work, and through the loud, tense, brittle Nova Mob material, Grant Hart clearly decided it was time to write some more sunny pop songs with Good News for Modern Man. He is the only credited musician on the record, which includes some of his best power-pop, and is a whole lot of people’s favorite Grant Hart solo record.

So naturally the thing to do was to spend a decade (A DECADE) not releasing new music. When he finally came back with Hot Wax 11, he had a record that piled on the sounds – there are a bunch of instruments on Hot Wax, and he’s really going hard into the baroque elements of the sixties rock that clearly formed the bedrock of his musical influences. Hot Wax is a downright great record, and features what might be his actual best solo track in the form of “California Zephyr”.

Hot Wax is a big, well-produced record of extremely-likable music, that sounds more-or-less like what someone would think of when they heard the words “Grant Hart solo album.” So naturally its follow-up, The Argument, is another very long concept album, this time about Paradise Lost and also about William S. Burroughs 12. The Argument is another incredible record 13 that looked like, given that it was only four years after its predecessor, we might start to see regular Grant Hart output. I suppose, in the balance, there are worse things than your final record being an amazing Paradise-Lost-based elegy for your dead friend.

Grant Hart made whatever music appealed to him at the time and given his resources, and he put it into the world despite the difficulties for him in doing so. The usual bogeyman of commercial indifference was the least of them 14He was an inconsistent, occasionally-difficult person. He carried a lot of resentment publicly for the end of Husker Du, which occasionally poisoned his lyrical well (especially on his earlier solo records). He struggled on and off with drug addiction – dating all the way back to the early days of Husker Du – and some of his long stretches of musical non-activity almost certainly have something to do with that. Maybe that matters. Or maybe we would have gotten the same twenty or so records either way.

What is apparent, and what is laudable, is that Grant Hart never made the same record twice. He also never made a record that he didn’t want to make. When the reunion gravy train started up in real earnest fifteen years ago – the train that made boatloads of money for bands that never really got their fair shake in their own time 15 – Grant Hart was adamant about his lack of interest in boarding it, not for reasons of personal acrimony or general unresolved anger, but because he didn’t want to live in the past.

Grant Hart would rather have done what was important to him than give people what they wanted. He made his music for its own reasons, which is the best reason to do anything. He made music even when doing so involved changing his entire approach, even when it meant operating in a completely different mode. Even when it involved, as it did, not even using the same instrument he came up on 16 – despite being one of the literal very best at it. Because that may have been where his music came from, but it wasn’t where it was taking him.

We could always use more people whose reasons for doing something is their own need to do it, their own willingness to do their own thing for whatever reasons they have, and have that be good enough. We could always use more Grant Harts.

And now we have one less.

Fuck.


  1.  I will defend this assertion against anyone. Fans of The Damned, come at me. You too, Minutemen fans.  
  2.  right from the beginning even – Land Speed Record contains “The Bee”, which is one of the all-time-great weirdo left-turns. Grant Hart was also responsible for that cover of the Gilligan’s Island theme song on the same album. 
  3.  on the same day as the Minutemen’s – whose fans are still absolutely welcome to come at me – Double Nickels on the Dime, making it the single greatest day for rock music in the history of rock music. Also Zen Arcade was recorded in a marathon two-day recording session. 
  4.  Which was disastrous, and especially personally fraught for Hart. For more information on the highly-acrimonious dissolution of the band, see: uh…literally everything written about Grant Hart for the last twenty-five years. 
  5.  they actually played the song on network television (!), on Joan Rivers’s talk show, as part of their big push to be a big famous rock band. 
  6.  Unfortunately, Intolerance suffers from the appalling production standards of contemporaneous SST albums – including the most egregious suffer, Husker Du’s New Day Rising – and this will, since Hart’s death, probably never be rectified, which is very sad, because if it got cleaned up it would be a monster of a record. 
  7.  Grant Hart was great. The first bassist was great, the first drummer decidedly sub-great. The second drummer was adequate, but the second bassist was not quite adequate, and the addition of a second guitar player served very little. It’s really a testament to Grant Hart’s abilities as a writer of melodies, and probably as a contrarian, that Nova Mob had good songs at all. 
  8.  I’ve always believed that he knew he was better off following his creative impulses on his own – partly because that’s demonstrably the case, in that every record he made under his own name is better than every Nova Mob record.  
  9.  it was around the time that Unplugged was making huge commercial waves everywhere, so it would be fair to call it “Grant Hart Unplugged,”  but it’s better (and less gimmicky) than that would lead the reader to believe 
  10.  at least, not from a recording standpoint. It is a sad truth that every version of a Husker Du song performed by some component piece of Husker Du, rather than by the entire, mighty band that actually existed, is somewhat lesser for not being by all of them. But this is how it goes. 
  11.  an album whose liner notes credit Sophie Trudeau, Efrim Menuck, Jessica Moss, and Rebecca Foon, bringing to mind immediately a world in which Grant Hart went off to make bizzaro-world post-rock, which is a thing we are now forever denied. 
  12.  the two were friends, weirdly. By which I mean both that I think it’s weird that they were friends, and also that, given the two men and their interactions with the world they were probably also weird friends. 
  13.  it was one of this very site’s best albums of 2013. 
  14.  there is no actual evidence that Hart would have done anything at all differently one way or the other, commercially speaking. 
  15.  the train that, say, Husker Du’s rough-contemporaries The Pixies have ridden into the upper-echelons of success, or that caused Husker Du’s crosstown frenemies The Replacements to make national headlines when they jumped on it. A train that could have, in short, made everyone very rich, because, once again, Husker Du had the best songs and if they had gotten together to play one of them I would have bought a ticket to see them if I had to sell several limbs and organs. 
  16.  and actually most of his solo records feature at least as many keyboard instruments as they do guitars anyway, meaning he changed major instruments twice. He never really did pick up drumsticks again, though. 

The 2017 Creative Arts Emmys

Y’all! I have never covered the Creative Arts Emmys! There are a couple of reasons for this, but the bigger one is that there are, like, six thousand categories in this thing, and they range from the highly-technical 1 to the borderline-nonsensical 2

However, this year I have, for reasons that may be obvious 3 been pretty focused on what it is we’re rewarding when we reward things. Aside from that, and from its more-serious place in the world 4, there’s also the fact that the Creative Arts emmys include most of what I actually watch on tv. 

So, for the first time, here we dive into the Creative Arts Emmys. Since there are, once again, threeventy squillion categories, I’ll be doing this lightning-round style, except sometimes I’ll have a bunch of stuff to say about television in general. This is also going to be followed up next week by the standard-issue regular old shown on television Emmys, so stay tuned!

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special

Two of these are standup specials, two of them are election specials by former Daily Show correspondents, one of these is the fucking Tonys. That’s weird. Anyway, honorable mention to Samantha Bee, but the White House Correspondent’s dinner isn’t really a tv thing 5 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going to Clean Up This Sh*t?

Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming

I mean, it seems impossible for it to be anything other than 13th, as much as I like Anthony Bourdain. I’m sure the rest of these are fine too, but another Beatles hagiography isn’t exactly the thing the world was crying out for.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: 13th

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie or Special

OK, so, it bothers the hell out of me that there isn’t a final conjunction between “Camerawork” and “Video Control” like there is between “Movie” and “Special.” 6  Like, shouldn’t the person technically directing this list of nominees DO BETTER?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Oscars, because while it’s true that they aired the worst screw-up in awards show history, it is also true that the camerapeople and technical folks caught it on video forever, and are therefore a part of history for doing their jobs even in the face of literal maximum dumbness. If this seems like precisely the wrong reason to give an award out for technical excellence, well, you’re wrong.

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series

I suppose I can feel a little bit better that they at least did it twice. I mean, it’s consistent at this point. Do you suppose there’s some weird contractual reason that they don’t have an “or” or an “and” or, hell, a “maybe” in there? I bet there is.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Voice, “Live Finale (Part 2)”. That seems like it was a lot of stuff to keep moving.

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, or Movie

You know, one of the things that I run up against every year at Emmys time is the distinction between a limited series and a just, like, regular cable season. I realize that the rules are being constantly tested and exploited to maximize awards benefit 7, but like, Luke Cage is a season of a tv show that got renewed for another season. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marvel’s Luke Cage

Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or Variety Program

Does Shameless have stunts? Does The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I mean, I guess you have to fill these things out somehow. No offense meant to anyone that performs stunts on Shameless, I guess. Whatever it is you’re doing over there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

WHAT. DOES. THIS. MEAN. Are the effects applied to a person in a supporting role? Are the effects themselves meant to be playing a role? Honestly, what are we doing here? Why is the world like this?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I do not understand the question, and I refuse to acknowledge it.

Outstanding Special Visual Effects

I mean, as spectacular televisual introductions go, you’d have to go a long way to top that first episode of American Gods

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Gods, “The Bone Orchard”

Outstanding Sound Mixing For [Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi Camera)|Variety Series or Special|Comedy or Drama Series (Half Hour) and Animation|Limited Series or Movie|Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)]

Guys. There are five sound mixing categories and three sound editing categories. I’m lumping them together, but I do have this to say: the sound mixing stuff is weird, because television speaker arrangements are crazy and different, so I guess there are some very real challenges to overcome there. Also the “and” in the category for Comedy or Drama Series (Half Hour) and Animation is making me crazy, because it makes me feel like they’re telling me to have one from both Comedy or Drama Series and also animation. Trouble with conjunctions, everybody!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leaving aside the dumb “and,” the rightful winners are: Planet Earth II (episode: “Cities”), the 59th Grammy Awards, Silicon Valley (episode: “Intellectual Property”), The Night Of (Episode: “The Beach”), and Stranger Things (episode: “Chapter Eight: The Upside-Down”)

Outstanding Sound Editing for [Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi Camera)|Limited Series, Movie or Special|Series]

Not as many fine distinctions here, which I cannot explain – I cannot think of a single thing that that airs on television that would need to be mixed but not edited.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Planet Earth II (episode: “Cities”), The Night Of (episode: “Subtle Beast”), Stranger Things, (episode: “Chapter Eight: The Upside-Down”)

Outstanding Production Design for a [Variety, Nonfiction, Event or Award Special|Variety, Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Series|Narrative Program (Half Hour or Less)|Narrative Period Program (One Hour or More)|Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)]

It is genuinely interesting to me to see where the stylistic/generic distinctions fall here – the production design categories are more segregated by subject matter (specifically time period), whereas the sound categories were more segregated by length. I find this to be tremendously interesting, but I have basically nothing else to say about it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Starring Lady Gaga, Drunk History (episode: “Hamilton”), Grace and Frankie (episodes: “The Burglary”, “The Gun”), The Man in the High Castle (episode: “The Tiger’s Cave”), The Handmaid’s Tale (episode: “Offred”)

Outstanding [Single Camera|Multi-Camera|nil] Picture Editing for [an Unstructured Reality Show Program|a Structured or Competition Reality Show Program|Nonfiction Programming|Variety Programming|a Comedy Series|a Limited Series or Movie|a Comedy Series|a Drama Series]

OK so, there are single-camera editing and multi-camera editing categories, which makes absolute sense, but I genuinely love the existential paradox at the heart of “Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Show Program”. That is, an award for best enabling the structure of this amorphous, unstructured thing. As though any television show could be truly called “unstructured.” After all, we have to break every eight minutes to sell Lime-a-Ritas! That imposes a pretty rigid structure in and of itself.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Life Below Zero (Ian Richardson, Tony Diaz, Eric Michael Schrader and Matt Mercer, episode: “River of Rage”), Project Runway (episode: “An Unconventional Launch Party”), OJ: Made in America (Bret Granato, Maya Mumma and Ben Sozanski), Saturday Night Live (Adam Epstein, segment: “Kelly Anne Conway”), Mom (Joe Bella, episode: “Bad Hand and British Royalty”), Fargo (Regis Kimble, episode: “The Law of Vacant Places”), Silicon Valley (Brian Merken, episode: “Server Error”), Stranger Things (Kevin D. Ross, episode: “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub)

Outstanding Music Supervision

Stranger Things and Master of None both have great music supervision, but mostly the Stranger Things guys just hired awesome dudes to write theirs, so the Master of None music supervisor totally did more work.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Master of None

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

With all due respect to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is a fine, fine program, “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!” is one of the greatest musical moments on any television show ever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (episode: “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades!”)

Outstanding Music Direction

Dear god. Pour some out for the state of live music on television, y’all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: the vengeful ghosts of better televised musical performances

Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score)

See, this is really where Stranger Things should have been nominated. I have no idea why it wasn’t. It’s a good thing for them I’m here to correct these things.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things, obviously.

Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

I mean, the above acknowledges that I’m allowing for the classification of Stranger Things as a repeating miniseries, as opposed to a regular-old series. So obviously I’m willing to meet them more than halfway, if they would just nominate the right things. None of which has anything to do with this category, except that I don’t have anything to say about any of these, either.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe, Planet Earth II (episode: “Islands”)

Outstanding [Prosthetic|Non-Prosthetic] Make-Up for a [Multi-Camera Series| Single-Camera Series|Series|Limited Series|Movie|Special]

I’m smooshing together all the make-up categories here, so it’s a real unwieldy title. I like that they separated prosthetic work from non-prosthetic work. Very clever. Oh, and a special shout-out to the episode of SNL that is here nominated, which spawned Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer, and about which there will probably be more said later.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Penny Dreadful (episode: “No Beast so Fierce”), Feud: Bette and Joan, Saturday Night Live (episode: “Host: Alec Baldwin”), Stranger Things (episode: “Chapter Six: The Monster”)

Outstanding Main Title Design

This, weirdly, is the most competitive category so far. All of these are pretty well-designed title sequences.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things

Outstanding Lighting [Design|Direction] for a Variety [Series|Special]

Huh. I guess I didn’t realize that the only actual lighting awards were for live events. I guess that makes some sense. I guess.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Super Bowl LI Halftime Show (anything outside is harder than anything not-outside), Dancing with the Stars (episode: “Cirque du Soleil Night”)

Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within [An Unscripted Program|A Scripted Program]

So the Emmys, it turns out, give out awards for the internet-facing aspect of other television shows. That’s what these are: the web-specific content that’s made for awards shows and reality shows and whatnot. Two of them are donation portals 8, a bunch of them are like weird clicky sub-ARGs, and a couple of them actually offer additional content, including E!’s dumb, terrible Live 360 thing, which is awful but is still a better aid to the television it goes with than all the other ones here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: E! LIve 360, The Man in the High Castle: Resistance Radio

Outstanding Original Interactive Program|Outstanding Interactive Program

I guess “best websit/youtube presence” isn’t as snappy a category name.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mission: ISS, This Week Tonight with John Oliver

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program

What I will say for this category is that at least most of these people had a period of time where they were very good at this sort of thing. Some of them are even still pretty good at it. Only one of them is great at it in 2017.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America

Outstanding Hairstyling for a [Limited Series or Movie|Multi-Camera Series or Special|Single-Camera Series]

I will tell you, of all the technical awards in this ceremony 9 , this one had to have the most interesting consideration process. I don’t think I’ve ever, for any reason, watched a television program specifically with an eye to the hair in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Horror Story: Roanoke, Rupaul’s Drag Race, The Crown

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special

Even in the present-day world in which we live, where the term “variety special” means a bunch of stuff that isn’t generally what people think of when they hear the term “variety special,” it’s still impressive to consider the effort that goes into producing a live television special of any variety. It’s almost a shame to see it shunted over to the Creative Arts Emmys, instead of honored at the regular old Emmys, but I also don’t wish for the regular Emmys to be any longer than they already are.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jim Hoskinson, Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going to Clean Up This Sh*t?

Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming

You know, I may never get over seeing Fisher Stevens’s name in conjunction with directing things that aren’t, like, direct to video Short Circuit sequels or something 10. Weird, wild stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher

Outstanding Costumes for a [Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program|Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series, or Movie|Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie]

Costumes! Divided again by the time period the show takes place in. These divisions all make sense, but I still don’t have that much to say about costumes, y’know?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: RuPaul’s Drag Race (episode: “Oh My Gaga”), The Handmaid’s Tale (episode: “Offred”), Empire (episode: “Light in Darkness”)

Outstanding Commercial

I really, truly hate this category. I hate that it exists, I hate that it is here. I hate that I have to think about it, I hate that I have to remember these commercials or any commercials.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nothing at all associated with this category. Whatever the complete, perfect opposite of this fucking category is.

Outstanding Cinematography for [Nonfiction Programming|a Reality Program|Single-Camera Series (One Hour)|Limited Series or Movie|Single-Camera Series (Half Hour)|Multi-Camera Series]

I mean, this covers a lot of ground, and it’s probably not fair to all of the purveyors of the photographic arts to lump them all in like this – the people that are doing reality stuff, especially, have a very different job than the multi-camera sitcom folks – but, well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Planet Earth II  (cinematography team, episode: “Cities”), Life Below Zero (episode: “Loaded”), The Handmaid’s Tale (Colin Watkinson, episode: “Offred”), Black Mirror (Seamus McGarvey, episode: “Nosedive”), Ballers (Rodney Taylor, episode: “Game Day”), The Ranch (Donald A. Morgan, episode: “Easy Come, Easy Go”)

Outstanding Choreography

So the Mandy Moore that’s twice nominated in this category is not the pop-star-turned-actor one. It’s the other one. Just so we’re clear.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I mean, Mandy Moore 11 was nominated twice, so one of them has to be the best one, right? Let’s guess it’s the So You Think You Can Dance One. That seems right.

Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

These are awards for acting in eleven-minute programs like you’d find on Adult Swim or the internet 12, and they are of course segregated by sex, because obviously men and women are doing totally different work when they play make-pretend for money.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lauren Lapkus, The Earliest Show

Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Also, it isn’t nominated in the series category, so I’ll shout it out down here at the actor categories. If you haven’t watched The Earliest Show, then you are denying yourself one of life’s great pleasures. It’s very, very funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ben Schwartz, The Earliest Show

Outstanding Narrator

You know, narration is one of those things that never really gets a fair shake, because a good seventy-five percent of the time it’s stupid and everyone hates it. But good narration is a great thing to behold. Plus, you know, this one has Alan Grant in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sam Neill, Wild New Zealand

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance

So, to be clear: when men and women appear physically on camera, their jobs are so different they must segregated at awards time, but when they just speak into microphones, the jobs are the same so they get one category. Just so that’s clear.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Schaal, BoJack Horseman

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

So here we have the most interesting case study in the Emmys this year. Shannon Purser appeared in three episodes of Stranger Things. She was introduced, she disapproved of Nancy’s party shenanigans, and then she got sucked into the Upside Down, and the last time we saw her she was hooked up to that…eldritch thingy. Whatever that was. And she was definitely dead. For a number of reasons 13, the audience latched on to Barb, and she became memetically a sort of second (or third) heart of the show. I think that’s probably the absolute top-dollar best-case scenario for a guest star, quite frankly, so I think it has to be her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shannon Purser, Stranger Things

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

I mean, Denis O’Hare has got to be pretty happy that his job is so totally different from any woman’s, because he’s the best in this pack, but he’s no Shannon Purser. Thank heavens they’re not doing the same job.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Denis O’Hare, This is Us

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

I don’t usually give these to Saturday Night Live performances – there’s not any general reason, I just prefer longer takes on characters – but Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer was a thing of absolute joy to behold. It’s true that it was still a recurring SNL bit, so there was something of a case of diminishing returns, but that first appearance was such a whipcrack of a thing that it is absolutely worth remembering forever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

No surprise that Hugh Laurie – one of the funniest people on the planet – was the best at being funny in this group of people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hugh Laurie, Veep

Outstanding Short Form Variety Series

It’s been around for a long time, but this really was a banner year for the Honest Trailers folks

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Honest Trailers

Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series

Well, I don’t actually like any of these, so let’s go with Brown Girls because it has the best theme song.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brown Girls

Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking

Your guess is as good as mine why most of these are “outstanding,” but this one is “exceptional merit”. I’m sure it has something to do with something. Possibly that someone hit the person who names these categories in the head.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: OJ: Made in America

Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series

I’m going to say it: there are too many categories, especially up here in the “series” section. For real.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: National Endowment for the Arts: United States of Arts

Outstanding Special Class Program

Like for example: what the fuck is a special class program? Shouldn’t we be calling them “resource room” programs? Are they just programs that need an IEP? I just think it’s insensitive, is all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: 70th Tony Awards, although NB that’s because these are all dumb, and this one isn’t affiliated with the NFL and didn’t get their most major award wrong. So it kind of wins by default.

Outstanding Children’s Program

So…the Macy’s Parade is here. So is Girl Meets World. I don’t think of either of those as children’s programs? I mean, maybe GMW counts because it’s about an actual child, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade? Honestly? TOO MANY CATEGORIES. TIGHTEN THIS UP, GUYS.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Wars Rebels, I guess

Outstanding Short-Form Animation

I guess it’s Adventure Time, since Rick and Morty took so much time off. Assholes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adventure Time, “Islands Part 4: Imaginary Resources”

Outstanding Animated Program

It’s pretty much always going to be Bob’s Burgers.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bob’s Burgers, “Bob, Actually”

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

Still 13th, honestly. The rest of these are still pretty dire.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: 13th

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series

Despite the fact that neither utterance of “30” is accurate, ESPN continues to call its documentary series 30 for 30. That’s pretty funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER:The Chef’s Table

Outstanding Informational Series or Special

That’s informational, not documentary or nonfiction. Totally different, guys. Totally different. TOO MANY CATEGORIES.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. For the information, of course.

Outstanding Variety Special

I wish the Stephen Colbert election special hadn’t been so good, because it has a really long name and I either have to remember it or go find the last time it was the rightful winner of something and copy and paste it back down here. My life is ceaseless woe, people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going to Clean Up This Sh*t?

Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

I genuinely have no idea what “unstructured” means in this context that isn’t just “documentary”. That’s what these are, except Kamau Bell’s. And that’s handy, because his is the best one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: United Shades of America

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Like how is Who Do You Think You Are more whatever “structured” is than Gaycation with Ellen Page? I just don’t understand. Besides which, every television program is structured. It’s literally structured. I am JUST SO ANGRY about all this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Antiques Roadshow. Because fuck you Emmys, that’s why.

And that wraps it up until next week, when we do the other ones, and I get to talk about serious acting some more, which is of course my favorite thing to do! Stay tuned!


  1.  there are two different groups of categories devoted to operating a camera 
  2.  Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role, about which see below! We’re in for the whole thing this time, baby! 
  3.  the general awards-show clapback environment, the increasingly-obvious out-of-touch-ness of the establishments that grant them, the election of a literal actual reality-show host as president, a general environment of wondering what it is we’re celebrating and why, pretty much all the time every day 
  4.  about which you can read more in a future installment 
  5.  I mean, it’s shown on tv and everything, but it’s not primarily a television event – it’s an event that happens to be televised. 
  6.  the official pdf that I’m getting this from is here, but it’s a pdf, so don’t click that link unless you want a pdf to load. It’s the same way on wikipedia if you need to corroborate. 
  7.  Netflix, in particular, seems to be the service going the furthest out of their way to garner a lot of awards consideration 
  8.  which, y’know, fair play to them 
  9.  of which there are, as you can see, SO MANY 
  10.  actually, all joking a salad, when I think of people who have the directorial career that I would expect out of Fisher Stevens, I think of Corbin Bernsen. They should have basically the same directorial career, right? That seems like it makes more sense. 
  11. not that one 
  12.  I’m always a little surprised they aren’t more common, but I guess I’m not a tv executive 
  13.  mostly that she was characterized – and one of the under-sung things that the show does very well is draw its characterizations very efficiently – as the normal person. She wasn’t “cool,” she wasn’t really in “the group” as such – the group was composed of couples, and she wasn’t one of those herself. As such, she was the audience members'(we also aren’t  a part of the couples, and even if we’re watching with a group of people, we’re all watching individually) surrogate, and so the audience members clicked hard with her, even though she was only onscreen for a few minutes and delivered a few lines. Couple that with the fact that only Nancy seems to give a fig about her disappearance (Justice 4 Barb!), and you have an ideal situation for some fan attachment 

The Best Records of August 2017

Randy Newman – Dark Matter (one of history’s greatest songwriters makes an album that’s every bit as good as every other album he’s made. Truly, now is a time to appreciate Randy Newman as much as is humanly possible)

EMA – Exile in the Outer Ring (EMA continues to work within a surprisingly-durable, surprisingly-unique sound, and Exile is another tense, jittery masterpiece)

Milo – Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?! (Who Told You to Think ??!!?!?!?! is such a magnificent feature that, having assembled an Avengers-style teamup of weirdo-rap geniuses, it goes on to prove that, great as all that is, it wouldn’t have even needed them anyway.)

Oneohtrix Point Never – Good Time (Original Soundtrack) (I mean, it’s a soundtrack to a movie I’m deeply unlikely to ever see, but it sure does do a pretty good job of conveying the movie anyway, which is the sort of thing that you’d want out of a soundtrack album if you didn’t really care for movies. Which is me.)

The Yawpers – Boy in a Well (highly-rocking stomp-around garage-country greatness, this record also wins points for the band having an extremely-appropriate name)

 

The Compleat List of Reasons to Go to Shows By Yourself

Hey there, reader! Do you like live music? Me too. It’s probably my favorite thing in the whole actual entire world. I love live music so much that I would forego (and have foregone), willingly, other forms of entertainment just to squeeze it into my life some more. I’m weeks behind on tv shows, have an increasingly difficult time fitting in movies, the whole nine 1

Because I am a cranky, largely antisocial Old Person, I also go to these shows largely by myself. This used to make me feel self-conscious, until I realized a couple of things: first, that I was never the only one. There’s always a subset of the audience that is there by and for themselves.

Second: going to shows by yourself is clearly more awesome 2. And here’s why. 

1) Other people are short

I mean, this could be written as “I am tall,” but that isn’t actually the problem. See, my being tall is the opposite of a problem. I can stand literally anywhere and it isn’t a problem. I suppose it’s a problem for the tiny people behind me, but I’m there by myself, so how hard can it be to make that kind of adjustment – you tiny people were already going to have to do so. That said, I largely stand in the back anyway, because I can see no matter where I’m standing, and I don’t really like touching other people.

2) Other people have terrible taste

I listen to, speaking conservatively, a lot of music. Not a superhuman amount or anything, just a lot. And, as noted, I largely prefer that it be executed competently live and in front of me 3. Most people, however, do not, and that is fine. But what this means is that often even when someone consents to go see a band, they only want to see the one band. And even among those cases where it is not so, there’s still a sort of element of “if this person that I am here with is not enjoying this, and I am, then they will enjoy it even less, which is the sort of thing that it’s hard not to feel responsible for if going to the show was your idea 4. In any event, the other people there aren’t going to be into the whole thing, because they are dumb and have terrible taste, because most people have terrible taste.

3) Other People Don’t Shut the Actual Hell Up

You know how you’re standing there and it’s a quiet part, or the dude onstage is talking, or something is going on that isn’t loud enough to drown out the moron behind you who’s talking about, oh, I don’t know, shoes or something? Yeah, that person is another person. The fewer people you bring with you, the fewer people you are responsible for, and the less likely it is that you’re ruining my evening with the dumbshit that feels like it’s a mere inconvenience that he handed a sawbuck to the dude at the door for the privilege of having to shout to be heard while he talks about, oh, I don’t know, shoes or something.

4) Other People Know the Words

One of life’s great pleasures is singing along to a band. Seriously great stuff there. I, of course, never know the words 5. If someone is there with you, then someone witnesses your attempt at singing, which is of course remembering where all the “YEAH”s and “WHOA-OA”s go, and sort of going YADADADOODADEEDADOO real loud over the rest of it. Like, a high-volume mumbling. It’s very invigorating, see. And nobody that isn’t standing particularly closely to you can hear that you only really know the vowel sounds (because those are the things that make it rhyme, see), unless you, like a dunderhead, brought somebody with you, thus having to face up to the shame of never knowing the words. 

5) You Don’t Have to Talk to Them Afterwards

This is a twofold advantage. One is that you can be alone with your thoughts and impressions for awhile after, and don’t have to go through the rigamarole of goodbye-ing or walking back to the car or whatever. You can just be done. The other is that if there’s anything going on with your ears you have the opportunity to let it happen without having to rush them through the recovery period. Come to think of it, you also don’t have to talk to anyone before the show or between sets either. It’s win win win!


  1.  literally the only thing that I don’t give up the time for is reading, which is, now as always, my most #1est of hobbies. But live music is close thereafter. 
  2.  I reckon this only actually applies to the sort of smallish-space, standing-room bar-type shows that are the sort that form the vast majority of the shows I go to. If you’re more inclined to the bigger stuff, you should probably bring a friend. 
  3.  without spending too much time on what it is that I’m into and why here, there are some exceptions, based around a sort of crude split between what I think of as “production” music and “performance” music – the former is created in, around and for the studio, and includes a lot of pop music, and a lot of radio-type things that aren’t exactly pop music genre-wise, but are certainly pop music in their execution. Those things I’m interested in mostly for the sound of it all. Performance-based music – the sort of thing that you’re likely to be able to go out and see live – is more communicative and more satisfying. Generally. Maybe I’ll talk about this some more in the future. The upshot of all of this is that I like Rihanna’s records (say, for example) fine, but I’m not running out to see her any time soon. 
  4.  obviously this is going to much less be the case if it’s a thing that you decide to go to separately or mutually or whatever, but in that case you can largely skip over this particular point, because at that point they’re responsible for their own misery. 
  5.  this is not true. I almost never know the words divorced from the song. I’m pretty capable of remembering the words when I’m singing along. However, this is, I feel (at least based on what I see at shows) pretty normal, and I’m still well below average at “knowing the words.”