Archive | February, 2011

Tea Party Then and Now

25 Feb

Special thanks to our reader “piper” for requesting articles about the American Revolution.   Here’s  one for you–with a political angle!

Are we on our way to another American Revolution?  Almost two and a half centuries have passed since the original Boston Tea Party in 1773.  Political unrest has spawned a new Tea Party.  But what does it have in common with its namesake?

 

 

Boston Tea Party

Populism – The first Boston Tea Party was a populist movement, which means that its goal was “seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people.”  In Colonial America, citizens were angry that the British could impose taxes that none of their own elected officials got a chance to discuss or put to a vote.  The average citizen grumbled about paying taxes to benefit Great Britain, not the colonies.

Less Government control – Great Britain prohibited the colonists from buying tea from anyone but the East India Tea Company–creating a  trade monopoly, which constituted too much government control.

Grassroots Level Organization – When the ships arrived with their cargo, a group of citizens, organized at the grassroots level, boarded the ships and dumped the tea into the harbor.

Resistance – The colonists formed a resistance against the established government to overthrow their colonial rulers.

Tea Party

Populism – Similarly, the new Tea Party also claims to represent the views of the average citizen.  For example, most Americans agree that it is a good idea to keep taxes low and reduce the government debt.  The Tea Party also offers what it believes to be “popular” viewpoints about health care, global warming, illegal immigration, and other issues.

Less Government Control – Tea Party members believe that the government should not overstep its power.  For example, it concedes that most Americans want affordable health care but argues that the free market should establish a fair system.

Resistance – The Tea Party has formed a resistance to President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation.  It contends that it is unconstitutional to mandate a program that forces all Americans to carry health insurance.

Grassroots Level Organization –  The Tea Party is considered to be a grassroots level organization because it is not as well-established or organized as the Republican and the Democratic parties.

So, can the new Tea Party movement change American history as did the Boston Tea Party? The last two points of comparison–resistance and grassroots level organization–offer the most insight into answering this question.  First of all, it is necessary to define who the enemy is and to agree upon a resistance strategy.  And secondly, it is necessary to recruit support, at the most basic level, within the community.  These are sticking points in today’s American society.

While the colonists lacked communication devices to help them organize, they also had a smaller population–of only two million then, compared to 308 million now.  Amazingly, the Boston Tea Party quickly and effectively gained popular support by posting printed signs and holding town hall meetings.  The following account is given by the Boston Tea Party Historical Society: <http://www.boston-tea-party.org/in-depth.html>

“On Monday morning, the 29th of November, 1773, a handbill was posted all over Boston, containing the following words: ‘Friends! Brethren! Countrymen!–That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor; the hour of destruction, or manly opposition to the machinations of tyranny, stares you in the face. Every friend to his country, to himself and to posterity, is now called upon to meet at Faneuil Hall, at nine o’clock THIS DAY (at which time the bells will ring), to make united and successful resistance to this last, worst, and most destructive measure of administration.’”

The resulting meeting attracted so many people that, “The crowd soon became so great that the Hall could not contain them…” The attendees supported the actions of the 60 men who boarded the ships, “…and in course of three hours they emptied 342 chests of tea into the water of the harbor.”  Without the aid of the Internet or cell phones, the American colonists had assembled a flash mob!

Today, with the help of technology, revolutions have been formed against long-standing governments in the Middle East, such as Egypt’s grassroots coup, organized on Facebook, which ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February. And so, one would assume that the job would be easier for the Tea Party in 21st century America than in 18th century Boston.  Not so.

On the contrary, it is more difficult than ever to recruit support at the grassroots level because the Internet has the power to both unify and divide.  People spend their free time reading an abundance of conflicting information that splinters them into sub-groups, each with its own combination of liberal and conservative leanings.  Undoubtedly, if a viewpoint exists, a blog exists to support it.

Although their agenda is more closely aligned with traditional Republicans, not Democrats, the Tea Party recruits people from both parties.  Disenfranchised voters can voice their objections to the platforms of either established party.  Democrats tired of supporting unionized labor or a “welfare state” can join up.  Republicans with average incomes who are tired of “rich people” buying influence with huge donations can sign up.  The Tea Parties offers a welcome avenue of dissent, but it might squander its influence because people disagree about what to disagree about.

Mother Jones magazine describes the Tea Party as, “an agglomeration of hundreds of local groups that often compete with each other and hotly insist that they take direction from no one.”  <http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/08/history-of-the-tea-party>  Lest those words be considered unfair criticism from a liberal publication, in January 2010, even Newsweek magazine warned, “at the very moment the tea party has proved it is an undeniable political force that must be taken seriously, it is at risk of tearing itself apart.  <http://www.newsweek.com/2010/01/21/is-the-tea-party-over.html> Truly, it is difficult to persuade people to agree whom the enemy is, when the revolution is against the America establishment, itself, not against an outside force, like British colonial rulers.

Hope for this new grassroots, conservative movement depends upon whether it is bold enough to establish itself as a true Third Party.  Can it offer an alternative that represents the majority of  Americans, as it professes the Republicans and Democrats have failed to do?  And, most importantly, can it nominate viable candidates that will be elected?  Instead of the physical struggle of throwing a cargo of tea overboard, the new Tea Party must find legal and political avenues to overthrow the establishment.  Only then will it take its place beside the Boston Tea Party in U.S. history books.

–Chris

Iceland At Its Musical Best

23 Feb

Movie Review:  Heima

Rating:  5 stars

Foreign films can be a little daunting because it’s hard to read subtitles and watch the action at the same time.  Yet, American movies have become tedious in their predictability:  car chase, gunfire, explosion.  At least foreign films give you an alternative;  they show you what life (and attitudes) are like in other countries.  It’s nice to find one that is also relaxing to watch–especially for music lovers.

Photo from website http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

The movie Heima is about Iceland’s most famous band, Sigur Rós, a downtempo, alternative music group with a unique sound.  If you haven’t heard them, follow this link to their website:

http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/media/

But the movie is as much about Iceland as it is about the band.  These quiet, dignified musicians reflect Iceland’s quiet, dignified society.  The movie follows the band as it travels around the island, giving brief concerts, most of which are held outdoors or in small town halls in midsummer.  Life in Iceland, just south of the Arctic Circle, is interesting–at Summer Solstice, the days there are 21 hours long, and at Winter Solstice, only four hours.

Photo from travel agency iceland2go.com

Without advance publicity, the concerts attracted a cross-section of people.  The events became family affairs with every age group represented:  adults, young children, adolescents, old people, and babies.  Absent were the aggressive fans and fawning groupies that mar many audiences.  Icelanders treated the band cordially, politely, and as equals.  People in the audience moved around freely and casually, reacting to the presence of this excellent band as a natural occurrence.

 

The Icelandic people were beautiful; many had the white-blonde hair of their Scandinavian ancestors.  Many wore handmade sweaters with Nordic patterns knitted from local wool. These gorgeous sweaters can be bought online from the Handknitting Association of Iceland.

Handknit sweaters from local wool by the Handknitting Association of Iceland

The vast majority of the movie took place outside.  Everywhere, the camera focused on broad expanses of sky, land, and water.  Every scene showed a love of nature.  Without drama or sentimentality, the movie succeeded in being poignant yet joyful.

Icelanders appeared to be one of the most laid-back civilizations of modern times. They seemed to be universally calm and centered.  Average citizens performed folk music or demonstrated art without a trace of attention seeking behavior.  In one funny scene,  a church group hauled a Kawai keyboard out to a field, where the organist sat on a roll of fencing and the choir sang robustly–as cars rolled by on the freeway!  In another, the band assembled inside a cave and played a large xylophone made of sawed pieces of rock.  Each musician took up a pair of mallets, claimed an octave, and added a musical part.  The result was mesmerizing.

Very little of the sparse dialogue was subtitled. Translation was unnecessary.  No profound meaning was loaded into conversations. And yet, like life, every simple action was loaded with emotion.  Pride, a sense, of belonging, sincerity, and a generosity of spirit came through clearly in these steadfast, sturdy inhabitants of a unique and rugged land.

For all of these reasons, Heima is a movie worth watching, even if you aren’t a fan of Sigur Rós.  But if you are, you will be rewarded with hours of glorious, soaring, serene music, featuring the angelic voice of its vocalist.  Don’t miss the experience.

–Chris

Game of Epic Proportions

8 Feb

Hey, everybody, It’s the Nintendo fanboy of the Teenwebzine, Hunter, here with a Game Review.  This time, it’s a much-anticipated third-party jewel for Wii, “Epic Mickey”!

The game's logo. Or a spilled blob of ink. You tell me.

Do you remember Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? Not many people do, probably because he was a cartoon character from the 1920s. He was Walt Disney’s greatest triumph back then. But, over time, Universal slowly took control over the funny bunny, leaving Walt in a predicament. That’s when Mickey came in. For about 80 years, Mickey Mouse gained more popularity and fans than Disney could have imagined. But then, in February of 2006, a number of assets were traded between Disney and Universal Studios. One of the trades involved Disney’s ESPN sportscaster Al Michaels being traded for Oswald. Walt Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller said, “When Bob [Iger] was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.” Diane was right. The company has a lot in store for the now-very-lucky rabbit. The most notable is Disney Epic Mickey for Nintendo Wii systems, where he is a main protagonist and Mickey’s older half-brother.

The game starts with Mickey Mouse noticing something strange about his bedroom mirror. He falls inside and ends up in the lair of the sorcerer Yen Sid (which, by the way, is Disney spelled backwards).  Apparently, the wizard has a lot of free time on his hands, ‘cause he has created a miniature sculpture of… well, some sort of place filled with forgotten Disney characters and ideas. Mickey then accidentally spills paint and thinner on this world, which forms a great thinner monster called The Shadow Blot, which pulls him into the world Yen Sid created, known as the Wasteland. Needless to say, he must find his way out.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking, innovative aspect of the game is the magic brush. The brush is any artist’s or vandal’s dream come true – an endless supply of paint or thinner can spout from it. Paint can be used to create platforms and items or befriend enemies. Thinner is perfect for making stuff disappear or killing baddies. Yes, this even works with bosses. And depending on how you use your powers and interact with Wasteland, the more changes occur. You can gain paint and thinner capacity depending on your choices and change the opinions of the characters. From hero to scrapper, the choice is yours.

All famous Disney Characters (Donald, Goofy, Daisy) appear as robots. Really demented-looking robots.

The worlds bring a healthy dose of nostalgia (a dilapidated TomorrowLand, Skull Island from Peter Pan, etc.) while always posing a difficult challenge around every turn. The music is spectacular and always fits the place where you hear it. When enemies approach, they have separate music for that, too. The enemies come in two varieties: The Blot’s inky underlings, the Blotlings, and the Mad Doctor’s robotic Beetleworx. But, blot or bot, all the enemies are very creatively invented. And, if you like sidequests, this is the game that you have been waiting for!

Every silver lining has a cloud, and unfortunately there are quite a few in Epic Mickey. First of all, this is a very dark game, in both meanings of the word. First, it is notably more sinister than something you’d expect from Mickey Mouse. Also, the game is so dark that, with my cruddy basement TV, I can barely see anything sometimes. Another thing is that this game has a lot of glitches. Sometimes, Mickey will be sent flying for no reason, and sometimes, a simple jump from a strange platform will catapult him to the skies. (But you can use that to your advantage…) One of the weirder glitches I’ve seen is in the main hub of the haunted swamp world, Bog Easy. At the loop, the music stopped abruptly. I couldn’t get it to play again. This also occurs in a certain area of the game where giant tentactle-like pillars are terrorizing Wasteland. Hmm.

All things considered, Epic Mickey is a great game. I highly suggest it to any gamer, casual or hardcore. My final judgment: 8.75/10! See you next time.

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