WAIT, THERE WAS AN ELECTION?

I didn’t miss it. Not really.

I didn’t comment on the lon-n-n-n-n-g lead-up because I had no better idea of what would happen than anyone else.

My only personal interested was voting against Andrew Gillum, the man who, as Mayor of Tallahassee, turned Leon County into the crime capital of Florida four years running. For those who don’t know much about my lovely home state, that’s a rough equivalent of making a docudrama where somebody turns Mayberry into the crime capital of North Carolina (and, apparently in an attempt to practice what he preaches, drawing FBI investigators like mosquitoes in August). And for those who think being Mayor of Tallahassee shouldn’t make you responsible for what happens in all of Leon County, let me tell you what Leon County, where I’ve lived and/or worked for most of my adult life, is.

It’s Tallahassee and a bunch of trees.

I didn’t care who Gillum ran against. I don’t even know who it was. I think it might have been Luciferus Satanicus of Sebastian Inlet. Didn’t matter. Gillum lost, so my night was made. (As with Trump in 2016, I called it hours before CNN did.)

If Gillum hadn’t been running, I probably wouldn’t have voted at all. The ballyhooed Senate race was Worm-Versus-Waxwork. I left it blank.

As for the rest of the beleaguered nation, it turned out the polls and pundits had it about right.

The Senate moved significantly Pro-Trump (call it to the Right it it makes you feel better), and the House moved almost as significantly Anti-Trump (Left and ditto).

Since the House, mired in decades of uselessness, is almost powerless to do anything on its own except conduct investigations which are unlikely to lead anywhere, and pass budgets everyone ignores, I think the Pro-Trump forces emerged slightly stronger in the short run and, due to the ability to move judges onto the Federal bench more quickly and efficiently, quite a bit stronger in the long run. The lifetime appointments can now proceed apace.

Except for their ability to shift courts one direction or the other, and rubber stamp executive orders, legislatures matter little now. If you think the Kavanaugh hearing was a circus full of clowns, wait until it’s Amy Coney Barrett taking over for RBG.

That’s just one more feature of exhausted Empire–government by fiat and decree.

I’m guessing Donald Trump won’t be one to waste that sort of opportunity.

I also don’t think it matters much.

Trump might turn the economy around, shift the emphasis from Wall Street back to Main Street for a while. By some metrics (unemployment, restoring the manufacturing base, hitting “free trade” in the head) he’s already done it.

But he can’t restore the culture or revive the American Narrative.

It’s all headwinds now.

The only people who aren’t getting worked up are me and Eddie.

Must have something to do with being life-long Floridians.

 

HOW CAME WE HERE? (And Then There Was Hollywood)

Risky Business (1983)
D. Paul Brickman

[NOTE: Occasional strong language and possible spoilers.]

Slick, trashy, obvious and irresistible. Whatever it was meant to be–document, satire, pure product, personal statement (the writer/director, Paul Brickman, has done nothing of similar significance since)–Risky Business ended up as the definitive response of the Eighties to the Sixties.

Summation:

Up yours!

Or, as the movie has it, almost as trenchantly:

Sometimes you just gotta say what the fuck!

That’s the message. You can look around and judge the results for yourself. But don’t sell any movie short that caught the zeitgeist of its moment and tracked the future so well without pausing for breath.

If you were alive and culturally cognizant you know some of it. Even if you were neither you probably know the gist.

Hello Tom Cruise (the Last Movie Star). Hello Rebecca DeMornay (a considerable presence herself over the coming decade).

Hello 1980s.

Welcome to Hell, in other words.

Though it’s often characterized as satire–mocking, as opposed to reveling in, the new conventions–I give it more credit than that. Circa 1983, what was there to mock, as opposed to revel in?

Sure, the idea of materialism as the final consummation of the American Dream was making headway, but it hadn’t fully arrived. For that, you needed a Big Event, and while Risky Business wasn’t exactly the Beatles on Sullivan or even Jaws, it was big enough. This is how we will live, the movie seemed to say, with a force few others have ever matched. And, looking at it now (more fun than ever once you see it as Brett Kavanaugh’s Real Diary–if fun’s the word), you can see why not too many wanted to resist. It prettied up everything.

What seventeen-year-old boy from the suburbs (or anywhere else) has not wanted to bend Rebecca DeMornay’s long, Playmate body over a window seat or a stairwell or the inside of a subway car? And, absent Morality, which circa 1983, had been whupped to a frazzle, what would you think of him if she was on offer and he said no? To any sex at all, but especially guilt-free, consequence-free, Beautiful Hooker Sex?

Of course, the narrative trick in Risky Business is that it holds out the idea there just might be consequences after all. Not guilt, of course, (Morality being whupped and all that) but maybe going to jail….or at least being grounded. Maybe not being able to get your folks’ stuff back after you walk in the house and find it all gone?

Better yet, getting your face pounded in or your balls shot off by the Beautiful Hooker’s pimp? Either before or after he absconded with your folks’ stuff.

Any and all of that might have happened to Tom Cruise’s Joel Goodson. Even after you’v seen the movie you can’t dismiss the possibility some modern equivalent of penitence might be in order or at least in the offing. That it doesn’t come, that it all works out somehow (in grandly entertaining fashion I should hasten to add), turns out the be the point. How else could the Eighties demolish the Sixties? How else could all that Peace and Love be consigned to history’s ash-heap? (There’s even a scene where the old ethos is mocked openly but the rest of movie renders it gratuitous, one of the few false notes). How else could the film drive home its final message? Only hedonism remains.

I can say with some assurance that most of us didn’t need Tom Cruise dancing alone in his underwear and cool shirt to provide any pointers, just to codify the new reality. (The shirt was important–just your underwear was way too gay. Or fairy or fag or queer or homo, as those who thought putting the Sixties in the rear view mirror was an idea whose time had come, were more likely to say then, or, when they think no one’s listening, now.) I was a divided soul myself. I liked the part of the Sixties hippies had swiped from the New Testament (or its own reputed sources). By the time I saw Risky Business, I also knew that part had been vanquished.

The hedonism was being celebrated–and with Risky Business, given its own Testament and set of rituals, good for a generation at least–because it was all that was left, but also because, like all consequence-free behavior does in the moment–it felt good.

It’s only when you look around the house (if you’re still living with your parents), or the apartment (if you’ve made it to college or beyond) that you realize the come down from the high you got from dancing in a way you’ll never do in public (unless maybe intoxicated, which everyone knows is cheating because, that far gone, it isn’t really you), has only left you a little empty.

Where Risky Business approaches Art, and maybe not even accidental art, is in that empty moment, after Cruise and Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” have created the film’s iconography but before the plot kicks in, when the great problem of the Modern Age our now-despised forefathers created for us to muck about in is lurking in every room of Dad’s house, confronting our hero.

It’s name?

Boredom.

It’s where the otherwise self-repelling styles of Sixties and Eighties hedonism meet like lightning and thunder: The Teenager’s brain…and what to do.

What Joel Goodson would probably do on his own is nothing–maybe another dance that wouldn’t be quite as exciting, then poker with the boys, where they can drink beer and pretend to already be the bored, listless men they’ll become, bragging about the nookie they’ve never had but which otherwise defines their dreams–the only part of their existence that isn’t boring since they live at home and aren’t allowed to get drunk or high enough to forget where they are.

But Joel has a friend–I imagine anyone who has had as many friends as Joel had had one–who lives to get other people in the trouble he plans to avoid himself.

Joel’s friend is Miles.

Twenty minutes after Miles gets Joel in trouble by calling a Hooker, the Beautiful Hooker who came when the first, inevitable, Comically Transgendered Hooker didn’t work out, is riding in Joel’s Dad’s car, asking Miles if he likes excitement.

The question is pertinent since the Beautiful Hooker’s pimp is following along behind, shooting at them.

Even the first time you see the movie, you know it’s going to work out somehow, and one of the ways I give Risky Business enormous credit is that it doesn’t take the path of True Love. After all the plot machinations have played themselves out, the movie doesn’t cheat its own premise. The sex and the shooting and the playing with fire but not quite getting burned was the whole point.

Other parts of the movie want to have it both ways–that’s real hedonism, the avoidance of not merely pain but discomfort. But the end doesn’t offer a way out. It’s evident, even in the ending Hollywood imposed,  that Joel Goodson will live to feel empty again…and that the Beautiful Hooker has never felt otherwise.

They’re just coming down off bigger highs.

That was the story of the part of the Sixties that made the Eighties possible if not inevitable.

It’s never going to be told better.

The Last Movie Star was on his way.

WELL, I WAITED TWO WHOLE DAYS…(Current Events)

…And scouted around. Ceaselessly.

Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, the Mainstream Media.

Not one person said or wrote anything unpredictable. However they felt about Roe vs. Wade going in determined how they perceived the sainthood/psychopathy of Christine Ford or Brett Kavanaugh. One hundred percent and triple down.

Here’s what I saw:

Ford is a stellar example of modern America’s tendency to produce middle-aged humans who have the mental, emotional and psychological development of yesteryear’s average thirteen-year-old. Maybe something happened to her, maybe not. Maybe she believes something happened, maybe not. I don’t know and neither do you. But if she really holds all those teaching positions that have been advertised (and there now seems to be some debate about that), then she’s the most serious condemnation of modern academia yet produced.

Kavanaugh is a self-righteous prig with a selective memory. If confirmed, he’ll fit in nicely with the eight goons who already decide everything and, should it turn out he’s an alky who already knows how to hold his pinkie while giving the secret handshake, so much the better. If the Democrats had any savvy at all, they would have come out of the hearing, gone to the nearest microphone and had some spokesperson other than Richard “Stolen Valor” Blumenthal (the Senator who was designated to reproach Kavanaugh for telling white lies–there’s no way I could make that up) say: “You know, when it comes to believability, he reminds me a lot of Bill Clinton…without the oily charm.” They, of course, did not do this, because they are morons.

Which is why Ford and Kavanaugh both came off somewhat better than any senator questioning them. Sure, they both told some whoppers, but only at about the rate Donald Trump does. That’s the new norm. Don’t bother getting used to it because there are Senators and Justices lying awake all over Washington tonight, thinking up ways to go lower.

No doubt, they’ll succeed. Things are never so bad they can’t get worse.

Have no fear, though. The Republic will grind on.

I know because, just to keep me sane, Dusty told me so:

AT LAST I’VE FOUND IT….

…The definition of National Security Threat.

It’s any Senator in a room with a television camera.

On the morning of the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings that will determine the fate of mankind! (i.e., change nothing), any villain in the world who gets C-Span could be forgiven for thinking we can’t possibly be anything but easy pickings.

Hey Jimmy…What would you call us right about now? A steaming pile of…No, wait….

TWITTER, TWITTER (Segue of the Day: 9/25/18)

Today, Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault.

Really, it was a non-event, but I found two interesting takes on Twitter.

First, Terry Teachout:

In the midst of all the other roiling chaos, it’s worth remembering—and strangely easy to forget—that what happened to Bill Cosby today will be remembered as a turning point in American social and cultural history.

Terry is a reliable indicator of conventional wisdom among what’s now called Never Trump Conservatism. He hails from a small town in Missouri and has spent most of his adult life inside the beltway, working for periodicals like National Review and the Wall Street Journal. He’s pretty darn sure Bill Cosby is guilty because, like most white people from small town America, he thinks this here darn system works pretty well and wasn’t the fellow convicted?

Here’s Curtis Scoon (an actual black man, who is not from small town America):

Now that Cosby is convicted for a crime he settled out of court for a decade ago every woman he’s ever bedded or attempted to bed outside of his marriage can now pursue civil lawsuits. Clearly this case was all about “justice.” What else could’ve been the motivation?

Followed soon thereafter by:

I have a question for the black ACTORivist/feminist types on twitter. You keep emphasizing the conviction of Bill Cosby as PROOF of his guilt, so why doesn’t Assata Shakur’s conviction prove hers’? Neither does Mumia’s conviction. George Zimmerman’s acquittal gets tossed as well.

I follow Teachout because he’s utterly predictable. That’s why I follow nearly everyone I follow–to tap into what the position is on any given issue from a given perspective. By following enough predictable people representing enough predictable positions, I’m able to discern what almost everyone is thinking because few people ever take any position that isn’t predictable based on even one previous opinion they’ve held and shared.

That’s the world we live in.

Maybe it was ever thus, but, if so, it seems Social Media has hardened the parameters of convention.

I follow Scoon because he’s the only person I know of, on-line, who isn’t predictable. And because he asks questions that have uncomfortable answers (like because it doesn’t jibe with MY narrative, that’s why!) which cannot be articulated by those being asked. No one likes to risk blowing their own mind.

I like to think he’s a kindred spirit in that respect. For instance, if I was on Twitter for some purpose other than following others, I’d probably Tweet something like:

Between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, I have no idea who is telling the Truth. Neither do you. No matter how much you think he/she reminds you of someone you knew in high school.

I’m betting that wouldn’t get me many followers!

How about it Gene? What do you say?