Saturday, August 13, 2011


Mr. and Mrs. EO just saw Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's latest film. It was a pleasure, a funny send-up of too serious artists and the too serious bourgeoisie against which the artists are constantly reacting. Owen Wilson is a perfect stand-in for Allen himself, a kind of lost nebish in a bizarre and fabulous world.

Gil Pender and his new/old flame, Adriana.
Photo credit.

Wilson, as Gil Pender, is a Hollywood script writer visiting Paris with his ruthlessly mercantile fiance and her mother and father. Gil has a novel he's been writing for years, but has never let anyone read except his fiance. Gil is overwhelmed with the romance of Paris, and in particular, with the golden age of the 1920s. His fiance and her family are decidedly underwhelmed by the place, although mother and daughter are delighted by the expensive shopping.

Pender is bottled up in his own time, his own thoughts, his own dreams, with a fiance who is exasperated at his desire to live in Paris and write novels, when he's doing so well financially living in California re-writing movie scripts.

One drunken evening, as Pender wanders the streets, lost and alone, he is taken by a boisterous group of well dressed folks in an old taxi to a party, where he meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Slowly Gil realizes that he has traveled back to the 1920s. Each evening, as his relationship with his fiance becomes more strained, he visits with his expanding group of friends: Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, and many more. Stein and Hemingway help him with his novel, as do Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel.

He meets and falls in love with Picasso's mistress, Adriana, whose own longing is for the Belle Epoch of turn of the century Paris. With Adriana, Gil travels even further back in time, and receives an epiphany while talking with Adriana, who is being wooed by Gauguin at the Moulin Rouge.

Photo credit.

I was charmed by the movie. It is not Allen's best. It is a good Hollywood movie, but that means that the insights and jokes are painfully clear, with no room for surprises or epiphanies for the moviegoer. That's how Hollywood makes movies. They ain't subtle.

Nevertheless, the movie is a funny and kindhearted look at human beings, and that is always welcome.

I had my own epiphany during the movie: there were no children. None.

The closest thing to a child in the movie was Inez, the 30 something daughter who was Gil's fiance. For some inexplicable reason her parents were traveling with her and her fiance, which served to emphasize the fact of her childhood. Yet even Inez was not a child, but an adolescent, sexually mature but still existing in the circumstances of childhood.

In a sense, everyone in the movie was an adolescent, from Pender and Inez to Picasso and his mistress, from Hemingway to Gauguin.

The perpetuation of adolescence is the air we breathe, the water we swim in. We prolong adolescence on into our 50s now, with people calling their 55 year old live-in a "girlfriend." We refuse to move past adolescence. The Rolling Stones are now in their 60s, still playing their defiant adolescence act to packed houses. It's more than odd; it's bizarre. How can there be such an audience for old men preening about in tight leather pants? Truly weird.

Even those who marry look back longingly on their adolescence, like Lot's wife looking back on Sodom. There is a conviction in our society that all of life's great moments and insights are had while an adolescent, and that marriage and children are just the beginning of death.

Yet in my own life this certainly has not been so. Quite the contrary, it has only been since I've had children, with all the aches and sadness and amazing laughter and joy, that I've become fully grown up, fully alive, fully aware of all that life has to offer.

I think that people who make movies are generally frightened of growing up. They fear this part of life and avoid it in their own lives, and fear it and avoid it in their movies. We've become a generation of aging adolescents, stuck in our own fear and selfishness, frightened to death of growing up and being married and having children and getting old.

More's the pity. Someday maybe we'll have some grown up movies again, when we start having grown up lives.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen still makes me laugh, and still makes pretty pictures.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Sad to say, we have no more money for a stimulus package. As Hall & Oates sang,

"We're out of bucks, we're out of bucks."

President Obama got one shot at spending a wad of money on "shovel ready" stimulus projects, buying car companies, extending jobless benefits for 2 years, and loaning money to big banks that lent stupid money on a stupid, overheated housing market.

While spending several trillion, the President made sure we all knew the unemployment rate was going to back off to about 8% as a result. He came to Washington to solve some problems: "Yes We Can!" "Hope And Change!"

And by jingo, change was coming. And change came. Just not the change we were looking for.

Last week we learned the jobless rate is 9.1%. The Dow plunged about 500 points. S&P is downgrading American debt. If a Republican President presided over a 9.1% jobless rate with no growth in sight, there would be million-man marches on Washington and burning effigies hanging from the Statue of Liberty.

President Obama's plan? Umm, extend unemployment. Some more. Umm, shovel-ready government works programs. More of those shovel-ready. Projects. Shovel. Ready. And, umm, ahhh . . . more, ah, taxes, ahh, on the rich, ah, like me, umm, to ah, to pay for all this stuff.

He's out of options, folks. He already had his big Keynesian shopping spree. He wants to do another one. It's all he's got, but he ain't got no dough. He's got no change, no hope, no "yes we can" left.

Right now it is all shrill lectures and sniping, 24/7.

Look, here's the deal. If Obama and his New York Times economist friends, like Paul Krugman, were right, and the Stimulus had jump started the economy like they said it would, at this moment we'd be nominating the President for the Nobel Prize in Economics. They might give it to him anyway, just for talking, like they did with the Nobel Peace prize, but I'm just saying.

If the President's policies had fixed the economy, he'd be a shoe-in for re-election. And he'd be riding that wave, for sure, taking credit for every last job and every last increase in the stock market.

So why blame the American people when they look at the "Big Spend" and see that it went poorly? Like the "Big Dig" in Boston. Now we've still got a lousy economy and an even bigger debt problem.

Actually acknowledging the problem and reversing course is all but impossible for the President, who as a disciple of Saul Alinsky isn't going to magically start calling for a contraction in government spending. The President is too sure he's right to do something like that, and anyway, his political base on the left would abandon him instantly if he tried to put a wet blanket on an ever-expanding government. The government bubble is an article of religious faith on the left. Going broke is not going to deter the religious fervor.

Nope, it's Big Spend or bust. Unfortunately, right now it's both.

I just heard someone interview Ed Asner about the economy, because Asner played Warren Buffett in a movie. I know, it's goofy. It's like interviewing Charlie Sheen about military policy because he played a soldier in Platoon. Anyway, Ed likes Buffet because Buffy says he should pay more taxes.

This gave me a super idea, which I have trademarked under "STIMULESS!" There are a few hundred billionaires in America. Based on what Ed Asner said, apparently billionaires all WANT to pay more in taxes.

Here's the plan. Ed Asner interviews all the billionaires. Each one says he/she should be taxed more. Then we pass a law taxing anyone who said "yes" to Ed Asner. Actually, we pass a law taking all of their money, because they can afford it and they spoke to Ed.

The total wealth of all of the world's billionaires is about 2.4 trillion. America has about 30% of the billionaires, so if all of them say "yes" to Ed Asner, that will give us about a trillion dollars, give or take a few hundred million.

That will be enough to cover 8 months of the Obama Administration's deficit spending, which right now is whistling along at about 1.5 trillion a year. The 8 months will give me enough time to buy a lot of 50 pound bags of rice and coffee, so I can ride out the "Mad Max" era into which the President's current policy is leading us.

STIMULESS! The program is exquisitely simple. Just tax Democrats and billionaires, each of whom say they want more taxes. This way the President can keep his political base happy paying more taxes, while still appealing to Independents and Republicans who don't like taxes.

STIMULESS! It will quickly gain bipartisan support. It is the only sure-fire way to get America going again.

You are welcome, America.