The Grammys must qualify as the second most bizarre American awards show (after the Golden Globes, ‘natch).  Often the nominations make little sense, let alone the actual awards.  One reason to watch, I suppose, is the outfits that some of the stars choose to wear.


Actually this year I have no complaints about the big winner – Adele, who took home 6 trophies.  If you’re gonna give awards to a big selling album, hers is a pretty good one.  And for once, no complaints about the best new artist award, which this year went to Bon Iver, who’s not exactly new but did reach new levels of acclaim last year.  I found some of the genre awards quite reasonable, including:

Country Performance by a Duo or Group – The Civil Wars “Barton Hollow”

Large Ensemble Jazz Album – Christian McBride “The Good Feeling” (on the other hand, an award category called Improvised Jazz Solo strikes me as exceedingly strange)(winner this year is Chick Corea)

Blues Album – Tedeschi Trucks Band “Revelator”

Bluegrass Album – Alison Krauss “Paper Airplanes”

Americana Album – Levon Helm “Ramble at the Ryman”

Folk Album – Civil Wars “Barton Hollow”

Comedy Album – Louis C.K. “Hilarious”

Historical album – the deluxe reissue of Band on the Run.  Really?  I don’t think this made any critics’ lists of best reissues of the year.  Beach Boys “Smile” anyone?  (Not even nominated)

Best Box or Limited Edition Package – The Promise, Darkness on the Edge of Town Story (can never complain when something Bruce-related wins though honestly, again, Smile, or maybe Achtung Baby would have been better choices)

Oh well.  See the full list of winners here (if you care).

Whitney, Kevin, Lars

Yes, you all know by now, Whitney Houston is dead.  She was a great singer, great voice, beautiful, talented.  All these people moaning about “what a great loss it is”, I guarantee you none of them bought a Whitney Houston record in the past ten years, unless it was one of many compilations released to keep making some money off a once-great performer whose life spiraled out of control.  You either liked her or you didn’t or perhaps you didn’t even know who she was (or maybe think it’s a cool pose to say you didn’t).  Whatever.  The tributes will flood, more greatest hits albums and remix albums and live albums, screenings of her films, so on and so forth.  Listen and watch if you care, ignore if you don’t.

What bugged the crap out of me was the second raters on CNN on Sunday afternoon, forced to devote all the air time to her passing and clearly not good at improvisation.  Within an hour I heard at least 5 times how amazing it was that her rendition of the national anthem became a single (with two minutes of comparison to Kelly Clarkson’s version).  Then it went even further downhill.  They got Larry King on the phone.  “Larry, what do you think about all of this?”  Who could possibly give a rat’s ass what Larry King thinks about this?  And then even further downhill when they got that massive talent, Jermaine Jackson – live on the phone from Istanbul! – for a good miserable five minutes – though it seemed like an eternity.  Then interviewing nobodies on the street.  “Oh, I’m so sad.” “Oh, my favorite song was I Will Always Love You.”  I mean, come on, this is a global network, all the power and muscle of Time Warner behind it, struggling to maintain second place ratings behind Fox Fake News, and this was all they had?

The only thing I could do at that point was switch off cable and put on a movie.  We Need to Talk About Kevin.  It’s directed by Lynne Ramsay and it’s her first feature film in almost a decade.  It stars Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as the parents of the devil.  Well, not quite the devil, but from birth on Kevin hates his mother and makes her life hell until, right before his 16th birthday …. [SPOILER!] he goes on a killing spree.  (Maybe not that big a spoiler, almost every review of the film mentions this.)

It’s impressively acted, shot and edited.  The opening sequence, I lost track of how long it lasts, 15 minutes or more, cuts back and forth across time, making little sense on the surface but it’s impressionistic.  For some reason it reminded me of Gaspar Noe’s films or at least his style.  The narrative never settles into a conventional chronological tale but keeps jumping around- albeit a little bit slower and with more dialogue – till the meant-to-be-shocking climax.  The thing for me was, despite it’s being so incredibly well made, it didn’t add up to much.  All this talent, all this technique, all this art – applied to what’s really little more than a standard horror story that doesn’t get tied into any greater truth.  It’s too arty to be drive in fare but the script refuses to reach deeply enough to make any psychological or sociological point.  I admire the hell out of Ramsay and Swinton and Ezra Miller (the teenage Kevin) but can’t bring myself to admire this film.

Oh, btw, despite my promise to myself to never watch another Lars Von Trier film, I did finally watch Melancholia.  And I made it all the way through.  It’s weird, those first 5 minutes or so, such lushly gorgeous images out of the reach of most directors, followed by a film that’s mostly jerky hand-held camera, telling a relatively silly story.  I guess those first 5 minutes sucked me in and a great cast – Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard, John Hurt, Udo Kier (!) – but I suppose I can admit that mostly it was because I knew Kirsten Dunst had a couple of nude scenes.  And yes, she did look quite okay, but all the same, if I could get back that 2-1/4 hours of my life, I wouldn’t complain.

…. catching up on more Oscar nominated films …. The Descendants, loved it but not as much as Sideways …. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, only great if you already know the story, but I’m now rooting for Gary Oldman for the best actor oscar, which he won’t win …. The Artist, well worth your time and it should put a huge smile on your face unless you’re a complete philistine ….

Seriously Spicy in Sheung Wan

Lunch today, at a place called Zheng Zong Yun Gui Chuan – the last three letters because this wonderful little hole in the wall at 123 Jervois Street serves Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan food.  Not much to see from the outside (or inside, for that matter) but they do display a menu translated into English with some photos.

My gf ordered what the menu said was their signature dish.  Basically it’s cold poached chicken, Hainan style, but buried under a mess o’ chili.  She could have ordered it with rice or noodles but for some reason she wanted it on its own.

I went for a bowl of soup.  Their soups start at $21 for just the (chicken) soup & the noodle.  Of course there are several types of noodles, lots of things you can add in and you can also specify several different degrees of heat for the soup.  I went for the regular noodle (they also have some kind of noodle made from sweet potato flour – guess I’ll try that next time), medium spicy, with fish slices (bits of real fish, not that processed fish cake stuff) and pork dumplings.

For me it was a comfortable degree of heat – I didn’t want the top of my head blowing off at lunch time.

As I suspected, a peek into the kitchen revealed this:

You may find it interesting to note that the one English language review on OpenRice is a total rave – and the writer does seem to know what she’s talking about.  The overall ratings for the place are poor – 1 good vs. 3 OK vs. 5 not good.  Google does a pretty miserable job in translating the Chinese reviews.  An example – “Well tasty chicken quite shoesmeals paper of the worst thing to ban all one, asked him whether the tissue, even to speak with you +3 mosquito .. ……. + a packet of fixed +3 mosquito mosquito style Gangster transferred frozen drink with the meal … +3″  And “Ganji Department are a few would like to ask a few hot, the last pick left big hot!! have left a few minutes ride something to eat first, shop kittens 23, left a bit like resistance!”

I have no idea what those folks were on about.  I’ll definitely return.