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Having watched Chaplin's The Great Dictator recently, along with a new documentary contrasting Chaplin to Hitler, I was struck by how much culturally smaller the stars are these days. 

Chaplin was really the guy that the term "superstar" was made for.  He created a film genre that inspires filmmakers 85 years later.  He was a phenomenon, becoming the most recognizable international (and national) symbol of comedy, of Hollywood, universal humanity, as well as the wealthiest actor of his time when he was in his 20s.  He achieved artistic freedom and founded United Artists.  Women screamed and fainted in his presence, although he never really played up a sex symbol persona  (like Valentino, for instance).

There were many huge stars in the old Hollywood studio system that came after Chaplin, of course.  But I think that the biggest stars who shaped the cultural landscape after Chaplin came from popular music rather than films.

Look at Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beatles.  


Maybe it is the distortion of looking at things in retrospect, but I don't see anything approaching the cultural enormity of such figures today. Eminem?  Michael Jackson (circa 1984)?  These stars are big, but, to paraphrase Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, maybe the culture got smaller.

But, oddly enough, the star quality of the evil ones is on the rise.  Osama Bin Laden, Saddam, Kim Jong, Jr..  Now these guys can't measure up to Hitler or Stalin, but considering how much less death they are responsible for, they definitely get their money's worth from their PR monkeys.


Yesterday I was a bit down, yes.  Today, I'm no happier.  It's like I can clearly see that "history" will portray this as a dark time for America, but now we have no idea that what is happening is bad for us as well as simply shameful.

Hussein  OR  Kim Jong-il

I'm not saying we should launch a war against North Korea, but if it is war that we are after, are we focusing our wrath on the wrong country?  We've got UN Inspectors up Saddam's ass who have not found anything approaching a mass destruction weapons program.  While, literally at the same time, North Korea has kicked out the UN and said that they are pursuing nuclear weapon technology and, if sanctions are issued, it will mean war (which, presumably would involve blowing up Samsung and Hyundai in the South).

What the fuck?!

Meanwhile, the president has decided to "fix the economy" by cutting taxes to the wealthy (via dividend exemptions at a cost of $600 billion that will be paid by the not-so-wealthy over time) and sending all of his rejected right wing judicial nominees back to the Senate now that the Judiciary Committee is controlled by the GOP once again.  This from a president who says on his website:

President Bush has pledged to work in a bipartisan spirit, which means he plans to work with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to pursue goals that are best for Americans. (see

Well, the word is out: it is safe to steal from the American people again.  To celebrate, the House has weakened its (already crappy) ethics rules.  I'm just stunned by the rapidity of the plundering of America.  We will long need to pay off this new Bush fiscal deficit and who knows what the international political deficit will cost us over time?


More of the same politically.  Yes, I've been away (tending to monkey business) and a new year brings not hope but a grim resignation that we are continuing down the wrong road.

Really, it feels like our country was kidnapped by inept criminals (see TNBBush v. Gore) and we are now tied up in the trunk knowing full well that the incompetent driver is careening down a closed road toward a bridge that is about to collapse. 

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