Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Woodstock's Cranky Aftermath

Talk of “Freedom” was in the air at Tea Party Express rally for Steve Lonegan’s Senate campaign at the New Egypt Speedway on Saturday.  Add Richie Havens and some Jefferson Airplane and you are close to a veritable Woodstock, minus the idealism, marijuana and thankfully, public nudity.
Many of the people at Saturday’s rally in Plumsted Township were part of The Age of Aquarius, but they’ve traded weed for Lipitor, worry about fiber intake and sometimes need a good place to sit.  Their folk singer at the rally is lamenting government spending, high taxes and Obamacare.
The Tea Party likes to think it challenges the establishment and conveys much of the rhetoric of getting government off our backs and challenging the system.  They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore, to borrow the phrase from Howard Beale in “Network.”
The Tea Party is the product of the politics of disillusionment.  They make an easy target for their opponents who write them off as “kooks” and “crackpots.”
Tea Party members have some legitimately overlooked grievances about President Obama and the federal government.
·         Is the government’s ability to gather my text messages a good use of resources in the name of fighting terror?  Why should they be entitled to breach our privacy?
·         Is the mandate to buy health insurance fair?
·         Why should the government bail out big businesses?
·         Do we have any business bombing Syria?  (Diplomacy may carry the day here.)
·         Why should our country continue to compound additional debt beyond the $17 trillion outstanding?
Politicians have capitalized on this disillusionment with great effect.  Saturday’s rally had its share of political double talk.
Sarah Palin, Alaska’s former governor and Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 Presidential election, lamented the disservice to our veterans by closing national landmarks and a few breaths later urging the House to hold the line on the government shutdown.
Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senator, speaking about maintaining our nation’s strong defense and the importance of the navy to protect shipping lanes and warned about the mounting debt.   Nothing was said about how defense spending – as well as entitlement spending – fuel the deficit.
To be fair, liberals have their own share of opportunists and double talkers that fail to account for the cost of expanded programs or new taxes to pay for them, when on the stump.  Also, political rallies are the last place where you’d expect candor about solving the nation’s problems, since the tone of political discourse has as much coherence as a pro-wrestling rant.
If conservatives -- or any politician in the political spectrum -- wanted to be honest and steer us away from a “socialist path” and tame the biggest risks to our government’s solvency, our seniors would lose their Social Security and Medicare. 
That would make the Woodstock generation, who spent a lifetime paying into these programs, much crankier and even more disillusioned.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Best Movies About The 80s

As a man who graduated high school in 1985, the 1980s represented my coming of age.  The Baby Boomers matured in the 70s, where they saw Watergate, the last gasps of the Vietnam War, disco and a lousy economy.  The 1980s were a big turnaround.  We had Reagan, Wall Street, "Morning in America," and a renewed optimism, except for AIDS scaring people sexless.  This blog topic came to mind after I caught Boogie Nights on television the other day.   The movie was made in 1997, but it tried to serve as a time capsule of the late 70s and early 80s.     I would welcome any debate or comments, but this is my list of best films about the 80s in no particular order ...
  • Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) captured transition from the swinging 70s in the adult film industry to the direct-to-video 80s.  The movie romanticized nothing about either era with its characters' broken souls and rampant drug use.  It featured a stellar cast:  Mark Wahlberg as a deluded star whose only gift is between his legs; Burt Reynolds' Golden Globe winning performance as a porn director who wanted stories in his movies; Julianne Moore as an actress (Amber Waves) who lost custody of her child but acts as a mother to Mark Wahlberg's Eddie/Dirk; Don Cheadle as an actor who wants to leave the business to sell stereos (his real passion); and Heather Graham as a starlet who dropped out of school.   William H. Macy's role as "Little Bill" sparked a symbolic transition from the 1970s into the 1980s.   Cocaine was a big continuing line throughout the movie, but the story captured the consequences of abuse and addiction with Dirk's downward spiral and Amber's custody battle.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High was my high school and a lot of other high schools in the early 1980s.  Sean Penn established himself as one of the great character actors as Jeff Spicoli.
  • American Psycho, a dark satire based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel, captured the smug, yuppie mores of Wall Street in New York during the late 1980s.  The role served as Christian Bale's springboard to Hollywood's A-list and gave me a whole new appreciation for Huey Lewis and the News.  
  • Oliver Stone wrote and directed Wall Street -- which was meant as a cautionary tale.  However, the film, as well as Michael Lewis' Liars Poker,  gave wannabe yuppies a playbook during the following two decades.   Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider whose mantra of "greed is good" has inspired many on Wall Street to share his worldview.  Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox) aims to be Gekko's protege, but the values of Wall Street clashed against those of his father, who is a union representative at an airline that Gekko is targeting.  The movie created some high drama and won Douglas an Oscar.
  • "They Live" represented a different take on the "Morning in America" of the Reagan Era.  Starring pro wrestling legend, Rowdy Roddy Piper, the movie captured the widening divide between America's "haves" and "have nots" in a fashion that was every bit as knowing as "American Psycho" and "Wall Street."  Piper discovers special glasses that allow him to see aliens in our midst that have taken over the earth.    
Please contribute!  I welcome other suggestions.