One frayster's dispatch from Leeds.

One frayster's dispatch from Leeds.

One frayster's dispatch from Leeds.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
July 15 2005 8:46 PM

White Vans

One frayster's dispatch from Leeds.

This is how a  Mixing Desk Fray post is supposed to read:

If emo's central theme is society's unwillingness to let sensitive males be as sensitive as they want to be, then I guess heavy metal's central theme must be society's unwillingness to let dudes like Glenn Danzig and Kerry King kick the crap out of emo dudes whenever they start to cry.

Why don't you dicks ever review real music, like fuckin' Mastodon?

Respond to matt666 here. While we're on the subject, stephenwo offers a curious generational interpretation of emo hereKA 5:45 p.m. 

Certainly one of the Fray's better pissing wars during my tenure:

(In chronological order)

Thrasymachus, "The Truth About Rove"
locdog, "two words: preview post"
Thrasymachus, "Four Letters"
locdog, "i'm meeellllllllting meeellllllting ooohhhhh"
Thrasymachus, "Well, Now You've Gone And Done It. . ."
locdog, "thrasymachus head on a pike"
Thrasymachus, "Locdog's Cruccifixion: Stations of the Cross"

Fray_Editor has little tolerance for petty flame wars, but this ain't the J.V. squad. Grab yourself a beer and  a chair from the kitchen table … KA4:50 p.m.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

I think the coolest thing about this post is not necessarily the substance, but rather that Cyberjack found someone who thinks that a road trip of "follow[ing] the history and ancient sites relating to the Ute tribes, the Jesuit missions, the Mormon colonies, the French Louisiana Purchase trails, the American pioneer trails, and the La Morada and the Conquistadores" is as fresh as he does.  Man, Fray Editor hopes he scores like that … KA4:20 p.m.

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Reading the Classics: Music Box Fray, in response to Tony Green's piece on the "canard of classical training" in pop music, is leading the Fray in post/check mark ratio. Green claims that the pimping of pop artists as "classically trained" by their publicists and producers is a load of crap:

Here's the problem: Few people outside of music students know what that really means. To wit: extended study and mastery of a complete system of techniques, pedagogy, musical knowledge, and repertoire.

For the inquisitive frayster, this begs the question: Since the average consumer of pop music couldn't care less if, say, Alicia Keys carries credentials as a classically-trained artist, then what inherent value does the label carry? According to solomon-grundy, there's a silver lining in the dark cloud of consumer cynicism:

I always thought the point of her emphasis on classical training was both as a gimmick (along with her stage name "Keys") but more importantly as a kind of political gesture promoting classical training among the young people who are her fans and who are largely from communities that don't get serious musical education.

If you've read interviews with her, she has a very strong political consciousness, and I can't imagine her efforts are unrelated to the well known studies about classical music education and cognitive development advantages. When she fetishizes the piano (one of the most interesting themes in her videos), it's aimed at a really specific audience. She wants young poor kids and kids of color to have a role model they can relate to who makes classical music cool and accessible, because it's ultimately good for them. Right?

Here, goaty totes out a host of musicians who blurred the lines, "when a few brave souls from the conservatory tried to break into the Fillmore east and West and bring the muse to the unwashed hippies…" The goat's list includes the likes of:

Philip Glass dipped a bit into New Wave rock with a band he produced called Polyrock. Glass played on a few tracks

…Velvet Underground founding member John Cale came to the US a viola prodigy and studied composition with Copland at Tanglewood. He was one of the participants in John Cage's infamous, all-night, realization of Erik Satie's "Vextations." Cale did an interesting album of classical pieces called "the Academy in Peril" and collaborated with terry Riley on "Church of Anthrax."

Dusty_Bear imagines that "if Beethoven were alive today, he'd jam with the jazz cats." And SpaceCadet, here, takes a fused, Hegelian hi-low approach that makes a lot of sense.

Forget classical training for a sec and check out fatman's "The Politics of Polka" from BOTF. 

Leeds, Follow: A number of fraysters have made reference to DirectHex's dispatch from Leeds, where British authorities raided the Hyde Park district in search of the London bombers:

Last week the bombers came to the places I lived. This week the police came to the places that live. In the solid yellow stare of a July sun blue and white tape sealed off roads and black helmets watched my every move. Noses wrinkled at the car I was driving as if the exhaust was pumping out skunk air.

I was lying in bed, shuddering from a chest infection, when the red band broke across the screen telling me about the bombs in London. Names that were part of my daily routine, stairs I had shuffled up to get to lectures that were always too early, the wheel rattle of old red and blue carriages and the suffocating heat of too many people pressed too close together. The level crossing I had dragged my bag across to get to the bank now had bits of roof and bits of people across it. I always sat on the top deck , where the Plexiglas at the front curved up and had the top support struts ripped off. My seat wasn't there.

There were always the guilty moments, the heart skip when the tube failed to rumbled on time. When it smacked the sides of the tunnel and sparked. When it ground down some coke can under its wheels. I would stand in the first carriage of the Piccadilly line train waiting to jump off quickly at Russell Square next to the exit but there was always the thought that if "they" wanted to – this would be a readymade mausoleum. So we stared blankly into the walls while letting the peripheral scan those around us. On that day someone got under the vision, and left a rucksack set for 8.50am.

Today, they came in their white vans, jumped out the back and laid down the law over a block square of street. It was stealthy. Bleary eyes met with the high-vis jackets in the dawn and people shuffling out of the front door looking at what was going on. They were searching for "them". Like the guilty moments on the tube, the possibility of this had flitted into our minds every time we walked out of the door.

It was like the possibility of the strip search and the missed flight. The possibility of the wrong name and the wrong face being met with sweaty interviews in closed of rooms while you failed to exist outside the room.

Such is our life now. Wrongness permeated with other wrongness. There is no real innocence except maybe for those who live under the age of reason and those who live beyond it. Those of us who live in the shelters of the west, surrounded by the concrete and civility of our societies can no longer ignore the meat grinder that spins outside our havens. Those of us who would like to carry on as if the currents of life only feature our own needs can no longer live with that luxury as the images of headless children reach out to drag us in to the nonstop whirl of it all.

There are men and some women who made it so. There are men and some women that suspended souls somewhere and denied the whispers of conscience that were built into them. They do this in boardrooms and caves, in mosques, in air conditioned hotel rooms or the backs of Teutonic chariots.

Thus I draw moral equivalence. That taking a life is taking a life. Suspending a life, curtailing the right to live, holding up the right to be as a crime and preventing all of us to be able to strive for safety are morally corrupt. A GPS guided bomb that drops on the sleeping child has the same affect as the rucksack on the backseat. That those who make the policy, those of our race who sit over death toll figures and collateral damage estimates are complicit in setting up the teeth of the Grinder. That there can be no prayer with the smell of blood in the nostrils, there can be no humanity with the thoughts of obliteration of others foremost on your mind. That injustice cannot be cured with more injustice.

When Cain killed Abel the ground betrayed him. When asked the ground will tell its tales. From Srebinica to the wall behind Rami Al Durra, from the splattered front of the BMA to the hulks of metal in Madrid the ground will speak. It will not say Muslim killed Jew because of this or that, it will not say that Arab was massacred here by Christian.

It will say man killed man and I know not why.

Respond to DH hereKA3:25 p.m.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Fray's dog days of summer leave Fighting Words Fray as one of the few breeding grounds for compelling debate, particularly this week, as Christopher Hitchens retraces the footsteps of his intellectual journey from Srebrenica to Baghdad.

BenK and MutatisMutandis initiate a solid thread here based on Ben's familiar premise that moral relativism, in the framework of foreign policy, is untenable:

The great irony of liberal relativism is that it finds itself on a bedrock conviction that coexistence with absolutism is intolerable. Fundamentalists, intolerant people, those of absolutist conviction, must be at minimum silenced - preferably, it seems, by shame or some sense of not being 'modern' or being 'offensive' or 'oppressive' or otherwise discouraging 'peace.'

Here we have a clear example of an opposing, a 'medievalist,' sentiment, as it were: that coexistence with dictators, murderers, evil people, is in fact no tolerable. It is not diversity to be cherished and appreciated. It is not some religious difference of opinion to be set aside under secular rubrics. We cannot 'all get along.' Some evil people deserve to be judged, be deposed, be punished, be executed for their crimes.

Is BenK a Trotskyist? (Insert Fray Editor's smiley emoticon here.) MM replies that…

Long-term coexistence of liberal with dictatorial societies is indeed impossible. For the simple reason that the mere existence of freedom and prosperity is a threat to dictatorial regime.

The only way in which the two can co-exist is by separation and isolation; the self-imposed isolation if the old DDR or today's North-Korea, of the helpfully externally imposed isolation of Cuba. The Cold War was not a regrettable incident; it was vital for the USSR and its system as a way to survive.

That does not mean, however, that the existence of an autocratic regime de facto justifies war and invasion. Such a regime does not have time on its side; especially personal dictatorships have serious limits on their lifetime. One can afford to wait until the regime collapses or a good opportunity for intervention is offered.

Degsme gets in on the convo here, suggesting that even for those who fashion themselves as hard-core humanitarian interventionists, there's a practical limit:

liberalism and absolutism can co-exist, as long as absolutism shields itself from liberalism - which over the long haul is impractical. It is in fostering the undermining of the shield that responsible liberalism does its best work in spreading freedom and self-governance (which is different than democracy).


What is curious about Hitchens' moral outrage is that many many more died at the hands of the PRC or the Soviets - and what happened in Central America at the hands of US funded "freedom fighters" is not too removed from the Balkans. While Hitchens could hardly be accused of supporting these tyrannical regimes, I find it hard to believe he ever seriously suggested that the US Invade these nations to end the genocide/torture/atrocities.

It is that kind of conveniently new found outrage that restricts its scope of vision that is the true "moral relativism."

MarcEHaag undermines Hitchens' hindsight on Bosnia here, claiming that

The Bosnian "example" provides, in retrospect, one very important lesson … The moral of the story international justice institutions, military power (US, especially) and local movements are not mutually exclusive. In fact, each works best when backed by either or both of the others.

The neocons, on the other hand, would have us believe that invasion is the only way to regime change. The fact that the Butcher of Belgrade, the Snake in the Bosom, Slobodan Milosovic, is no longer in power, sitting instead in the dock in The Hague, awaiting his fate at Carla Del Ponte's hands, serves to debunk the neocons.

But EarlyBird interprets it differently:

What the Milosevic situation shows us is that Europe loves American militarism when they can use it exactly when and where they see fit, but can't stand it being used for American interests alone or when it bumps up against its own interests. But that does not mean their interests are more moral than America's.

Fraywatch has missed our resident liberal pragmatic internationalist. She's back in FWF:

In the real world, the US and our allies must make decisions. We have limited resources and cannot solve all the problems in the world by throwing cruise missiles and tank divisions at them. We must prioritize situations, approach some crises with non-military means, and others with a limited military response. In this era of cheap and widely available small arms and explosives, it may never again be possible to seize and occupy any sizeable hostile territory without pulling resources away from every other trouble spot in the world. Such a response must be reserved for an absolute necessity.

Iraq was a Stalinist nightmare, but it was also a well-contained threat. Now, after our wild overreaction, Baathists are still killing civilians in large numbers, terrorists are killing Americans on a daily basis, and Iran and North Korea edge toward nuclear-power status without any fear of a realistic threat of force. Please explain to me, Mr. Hitchens, why we should trust your moral outrage as a barometer for military action?

Until Hitchens and his fellow uber-hawks learn to balance their righteous anger with a dose of sober realism, and come to terms with the disparity between their desire for action and the limitations of all-volunteer armed forces, they will continue to lead us headfirst into easily avoidable tragedies. Let the victims at Srebrenica be our reminder of the dangers of collective inaction in the face of terrible injustice, but also of the dangers of trusting the moral judgment of militant nationalists who seek unconditional support for strong action against the threat of a Muslim insurgency.

Catch up with ShriekingViolet here.

Who Knew? That Fray regular, Auros-4, is a silver-screen financier. Check out the link to his testimonial in DailyKos via Hollywood Economist Fray.

BOTF Notes: BOTF remains a divine place for a moral conundrum. Locdog poses a dandyKA8:35 a.m.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

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Thursday's attacks on London prompted Fraysters to reexamine the G.W.O.T. and the war in Iraq. MoscowMike and JLF composed the quintessential (and remarkably civil) neocon-liberal internationalist thread on the Fray, with Mike prescribing that we drain the swamp, while JLF sees the larger conflict as one between modernity and fundamentalism.

Others weighed in accordingly:

…terrorists wanting only to kill, and intending to die in the attempt, will always be able to kill. There are many, many sensible security measures that can and must be taken to reduce the scale of the carnage, but full security is chimerical. Realizing that fact, however, is what should be a powerful asset in the war on terror. Once you accept the inevitability that terrorists can kill, then you can quantify it and eliminate the terror. It's a worn cliché, but many times more Americans died in traffic accidents in 2001 than were killed by even a very large-scale attack. If you realize that you are taking far more risk getting behind the wheel than going to your office in a skyscraper or boarding a subway train, it may help to blunt the psychological force of the killing. This reduces the ultimate effectiveness of terror attacks, and helps prevent panicked reactions in either direction -- flailing military assaults against unknown targets that bomb more innocents to rubble, or frantic futile efforts to placate people whose hatred is long-since ingrained and unchangeable…

--HLS2003, here, pithy and precise

…Here in the U.S. the so-called militias that sprout up within our culture are so miniscule, and so widely ridiculed, that they're ineffective in espousing their fringe, and mainly frivolous, causes. Unfortunately many influential, and wealthy, representatives of Islam have found their calling in hate and death. Muslim religious and political organizations have to do a much better job of policing themselves…

--MarkBuddy, here, looking to the clerics for a little help.

Calling this version of the Freedom Tower the "best yet" is like calling "Biodome" the best Pauly Shore film ever. The metric is wrong. Still, one could be distracted but such stupidity into missing the yawning critical inconsistency at the heart of WR's piece…

WR is asking us to cut this new Freedom Bunker-in-the-Sky some slack—even though for 200 ft. up around its entire perimeter the thing huddles in a giant "Fuck You! Oh, and please don't hurt me" position. It's the Monitor (or the Merrimac) of the new millennium: iron-clad, likely to sink, and sure to make everyone inside it uncomfortably sweaty.

 …In addition to the unacceptable first 20 floors, the unacceptable pointy thingy, there is the central shaft, with its gradual passage from square to octagon and back. There is a reason why they have put up a series of flyby's to promote this version: said building sucks unless you are in motion. It would be an ideal fit in a city like, say, Dallas, where freeways cut through the downtown and provide a view of the architecture en passant.

But New York is a pedestrian city, and even in a car you aren't going fast enough to get the effect. The building should cater to that pace: ferry boat pokiness, cab-in-traffic sluggishness, perhaps bike messenger speed. One reason why the ziggurating of the old skyscrapers works so well in the city is that they give us a play of shadows in the canyons. The shadows move at a pace we can appreciate as we walk … this building, even assuming it is fixed to WR's liking, will give us nothing: no service entry to avoid, no lobby to look forward to, no alternations or alterations of mass to fire our imagination, no sublime endlessness (which even the old WTC had). This is not an acceptable building sandwiched by some stuff in need of revision. This is a shit sandwich.

--MatthewGarth, here, as our Assassin of the Week on Witold Rybczynski's blithe praise of Freedom Tower III

…President Bush should not sign the Kyoto Agreement. He should not sign it because China and Russia are given free pass in meeting the standards for green house gases and pollution. Our own enlightenment over the past 100 years of experiencing pollution has taught so much and yet we refuse to apply it in China as a prerequisite to trade. Instead, we opt for cheap prices at Walmart thereby sacrificing the Chinese by not requiring China to institute pollution controls and threatening our own social infrastructure all in the name of free trade … As a country we dictate the blossoming of Democracy all over world interfering with a country's sovereignty and ignore the creeping threat of pollution claiming free market enterprise. This duplicity on our part makes little sense. Go and shop for the Chinese products; but also understand, the cost to the Chinese, the world, the coming cleanup, and to our own social infrastructure. It will come back to haunt us and far exceed the loss in economic growth…

--run75441, here, an unlikely supporter of the president on global energy policy.

…This whole blood relations thing is so outdated. Back in the day, extended families did more than just share a damn surname and show up at funerals and weddings. They were integrated economic and social units with lots of deep obligations born of experience to solidify them. Nowadays, extended families are often little more than annoying constellations of dickheads you wouldn't give the time of day to except for those outdated social norms. In today's world, if you want an extended family of people you can enjoy, trust and rely on, you gotta make one out of the people you come across in life…

--doodahman, here, giving you an anthropological out from the next family reunion.

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Thursday, July 7, 2005

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The SCOTUS parlor game is in full swing throughout the Fray. Juris-Fraysters are handicapping the prospective nominees and prescribing tactical advice to the GOP. Should the president fire a shot over the bow and nominate an ideological stalwart, or should he find a nominee who embodies the spirit of O'Connor's pragmatic conservatism?

What about Garza? Though much of the attention has been focused on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, The_Bell wonders if another Texan doesn't better fit the bill:

…close scrutiny ought to fall on Judge Emilio M. Garza of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

…he has established himself as dependably conservative. A study of judicial decisions by Judicature magazine found Garza voted conservatively seventy percent of the time. Yet the New Republic opined of him last November, "Garza doesn't have much of a paper trail in federalism cases and seems like less of an enthusiastic partisan of the Constitution in Exile" – and thus less likely to face a determined Democratic filibuster – than his Fifth Circuit peer Edith Jones, Janice Rogers Brown, or Estrada.

…Garza has appeared on every short list of potential Supreme Court Justices that President Bush might appoint, although he consistently seems relegated to the second tier – especially for the Chief Justice spot. His Hispanic attractiveness is considered offset by his controversial rhetoric regarding abortion, according to most conventional wisdom. But it is an Associate Justice slot that is now up for grabs and Garza brings far more to the nation's highest bench than his Latino background from Bush's perspective.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Washington attorney and legal insider Tom Goldstein calls Garza, "'definitely the most likely choice' because he fits ideally with what the Bush White House is seeking." I find myself in agreement. Democrats will not like Garza because he is simply too conservative a replacement for the moderate Sandra Day O'Connor. But it is important to note that O'Connor sided with the Court's conservative camp frequently enough and will probably be remembered as a conservative and not a true independent. By that standard, Garza seems far less an implausible trade.

Garza has been the senior Hispanic federal judge in waiting for some time now. His extraordinary moment may have finally arrived.

So far as the nomination process goes, locdog is decidedly more consent than advice. His major points…

1. bush is under no obligation to cooperate with congress  

2. ideology should play no role in the confirmation process  

3. by caving to pressure to nominate a more moderate selection, bush establishes a dangerous precedent

4. the people have a right to see their views reflected in the judiciary

5. only a hard-line conservative will do

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For his part, Urquhart "agrees with #3 and #5," while Catorce can't reconcile #2 with #5. So far as hot button issues, more than one frayster has expressed that Kelo may be as potent as Roe come confirmation. Check out Joe_JP's post on the subject. And Thrasymachus discusses why "it appears that Bush's particular brand of Christianity only exerts a strong influence on his foreign policy, and that, when it comes to domestic policy, so far at least, he might as well be a white-shoe agnostic."

Miller's Genuine Shaft? The case against Judith Miller is articulated here by Dilan_Espar:

The system of anonymous sources, along with any protection that the legal system gives to it, depends on journalists not granting anonymity every time a source asks for it. Otherwise, journalists become mere tools of leakers, and if they receive a shield, the legal system enables the worst sort of vindictive and slanderous leaking.

And she should never have granted Curveball anonymity either, given how facially unreliable the information was.

Perhaps, while she sits in jail, Ms. Miller can reflect on what circumstances justify a grant of anonymity. There are a whole lot of reporters running around Washington thinking they are the next Woodward and Bernstein and contracting to keep bad people anonymous at the drop of a hat. Ms. Miller's imprisonment may be a useful corrective to that.

Offering a concurring opinion is satish_desaiKA8:35 a.m.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Body-Bag Mentality: Christopher Hitchens' latest effort sets off his critics on the Fray, the most vociferous of whom elevate their game to an "an entirely new and more vicious level," in the words of doodahman. What's pushed the Fighting Words respondents over the edge?  Hitchens' attribution of Yasser Salihee's killing to an "insular mentality" among opponents of the war:

…crimes and blunders of this kind are committed, in effect, by popular demand. It is emphasized every day that Americans do not want to read about dead soldiers. So it is arranged that, as far as possible, they will read (or perhaps not bother to read) about dead civilians instead. This is the price that a "body-bag" mentality exacts.

First off, doodahman sets out to clarify the motive behind Salihee's death:

Mr. Salihee was murdered because he was investigating the widespread kidnapping, torture and murder of Sunnis by either Shia militia units, or, more likely, by special units of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior…

So here comes Hitch, trying to bullshit you all into thinking that Salihee's death is just a horrible side effect of liberation.

Betty_the_Crow exposes the peculiar brand of tautology at work here:

A close read of this particular exercise shows that Hitchens is blaming civilian unease with US casualties for forcing the military to use draconian tactics that result in increased US casualties. Because if we didn't go so wobbly at the prospect of dead soldiers, they wouldn't have to protect themselves so zealously as to engender the resentment that leads to more dead soldiers.

It's a mental gymnastic that would kill a mere mortal, but Hitchens carries it off without ... well, without a Hitch. He's got a Tempur-pedic brain: two completely opposed ideas can bounce around on it, each secure in the knowledge that they won't disturb the other…

Mental gymnast, MarcEHaag, gets into the act, too:

By logical extrapolation, then…that we need to care less about our dead soldiers…

Let there be a pile of body bags! The more the better for showing the world our resolve! . . .

Never mind that this pseudo-macho attitude comes creepily close to the death-worship of our enemies, the Islamo-fascist murderer-prophets.

Hitchens admirer, claynaff, supported the invasion of Iraq on grounds outlined in Fighting Words by Hitchens, but he's had second thoughts. Check out his post here.

Box Office Space: In the inimitable words of Yogi Berra, nobody goes to that restaurant anymore; it's too crowded. So is that why Americans are seeing fewer movies at the googleplexes than ever before? According to nicksname, here, sort of:

one needs to add the changing cultural scene as part of this process as well. I went to a matinee other day - the first visit to a movie house in a year - and even in a mostly adult audience I still had to endure two ringing cell phones with one being answered! I guess because she was whisssspering reallll loooow she thought it was....oooookkkkk -

With high tech reaching even higher these days, (I have a high octane, wide screen with all the bells and whistles) why should I put up with unruly or out of control crowds, rude and ignorant people, phones ringing, beepers beeping and people talking when I can WFV and experience the same things at home with my family?? ... For a lot less money!

According to both Catorce and EarlyBird, it's the product. Here's Catorce, drawing an interesting parallel:

It's not TV's fault…

…faced with the same experience enhancing home technology, we are supposed to believe that the home technology keeps people in their seats as to watching movies but not as to watching sports. Sorry, but that doesn't make sense. Its not like going to a ball game now is much different than it was twenty or thirty years ago -- except for prices that have increased far faster than movie prices. So people are not only foregoing tv to go to games in record numbers, they are paying far more than it would cost to go to a movie to do so, both in real and comparative terms.

What gives? The answer is simple. People do not know what will happen at the sporting event before they leave the house, whereas people increasingly know what will happen at the movie before they leave the house…

…think about the movies, any movie. You know almost without exception the ending before you see the film -- the guy will get the girl, the bad guys will lose, the hero will survive to fight on, etc.

EarlyBird's hit piece of the big-budget fare can be found here. Finally, lucabrasi, no friend of the D-kid, asks, "What does it matter?"

The movie business will never fully collapse. Many jobs were lost in the 50's as TV and anti-trust issues came home to roost. A near-dead industry in the 60's/early 70's -- with soundstages empty or doing TV only -- managed to stagger on through with hits like "Airport" and "Dirty Harry" to hold the fort til Spielberg and Lucas got in.

How is this slump dire for ANYBODY?

Is it dire for the moviegoer? Is the threat that eventually there won't be any movies, ever again? Somehow, I doubt it.

Lucabrasi brings up an interesting point: The folks hit the worst by the box office slump are lower-level Hollywood operatives. I guess if Fr_Ed is spared having to listen to the ruminations of a tracking group full of twentysomething development assistants while trying to enjoy his brunch, then perhaps a healthy correction at the box office ain't such a bad thing … KA8:20 a.m.