A small circle: The Times They Are A-Changin' Back    
 The Times They Are A-Changin' Back25 comments
picture8 Aug 2004 @ 21:43, by D


Time has rendered the movie eerily prescient in its foreshadowing of contemporary American politics and the rise of "image" over issues. The movie seems closer to reality now than it did in 1992 and of greater interest because of the current political context. The essence of Bob Roberts' strategy (casting himself as a "conservative rebel") is close to home and chillingly reminiscent of George W. Bush's campaign which won him his following in 2000, not to mention the zombie like devotion of the religious right.

Tim Robbins wrote, directed, and stars as the title character, an arch-conservative (once called a "cryptofascist") folk singer in the stylistic, though certainly not the political, mold of Bob Dylan. His album titles are all plays on Bob Dylan album titles: "The Freewheelin' Bob Roberts," "The Times They Are A-Changin' Back," "Bob on Bob," etc.

The "documentary" follows Bob on his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania, where he hopes to upset incumbent liberal senator Brickley Paiste (played wonderfully by author, onetime Senate candidate, and sometime actor Gore Vidal), using, among other tactics, a phony sex scandal. Meanwhile Bob is being pursued by a raggedy-looking journalist (Giancarlo Esposito) who insists to have ties between Roberts, a number of failed S and Ls, and the Iran-Contra affair.

So, is it funny? Absolutely. The songs, in particular, are so on the nose it almost hurts. (Robbins reveals in his commentary track that he was approached to release a soundtrack album and refused, because he didn't want these songs taken at face value and used as anthems by the Rush Limbaughs of the world.) But many smaller details also hit home, and though it certainly is exaggerated all over the place, the film is dead on and plays even better now than in '92.

---Alex Castle, dvd.ign.com

"Some people will work/ some simply will not/ but they'll complain and complain
and complain and complain..."

Bob's gimmick is twisting the peace anthems of the Sixties to push military spending and welfare squashing. Take his campaign ditties---barbed parodies written by Robbins and his brother David: "I wanna be rich, I don't have a brain/So give me a handout while I complain." Or his proposal for bringing justice to drug dealers: "Hang 'em high for a clean-living land." Robbins, the son of Gil Robbins of the Highwaymen ("Michael Row the Boat Ashore"), sings these tunes straight. Bob is no Mr. Potatoe Head; he preys on the ignorance of others.

The driving force behind Bob is his sleazy campaign manager, a former CIA operative named Lukas Hart III, played with glorious malevolence and brilliant wit by Alan Rickman. Having scored on the charts by inverting songs by Bob Dylan ("Times Are Changing Back") and Woody Guthrie ("This Land Was Made for Me"), guitar-strumming Bob will launch his political career with music, further hyped by MTV videos like the uproariously vile "Wall Street Rap."

Hart, PR man Chet MacGregor (Ray Wise) and Bob know how to play dirty. They plant rumors that Bob's rival---the liberal incumbent, Senator Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal)---has been cheating on his wife with a teenager. Vidal, the acidtongued author and former candidate for Congress, is superb, playing the old war horse with irresistible blowhard charm.

Bob's appeal is based on the sound bite. And Robbins mines every intonation for maximum smarm. With a mayor's wife (Anita Gillette) and her hyperventilating son (Jack Black), he plays off his celebrity. "I wish there was a way I could vote for you a hundred times," the lady says in awe. "There is," says Bob, clocking in a wide-eyed pause. "Just kidding."

It's a kick watching Bob manipulate reporters ("You do such wonderful work on the news---always watch ya") or deflect an occasional tough question with a baby-faced grin or a curt "Thank you for your time." Robbins owes a debt to Altman's landmark political TV series Tanner '88 and to the director's use of big names in small roles in films like "Nashville" and "The Player." But Robbins's contempt for media superficiality is equally strong and cuts just as deep. Susan Sarandon, Peter Gallagher, Fred Ward, Pamela Reed and James Spader take particularly delicious swipes at news anchors.

The one member of the press Bob can't finesse is wild man Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito in an outstanding performance), a black reporter for the underground "Troubled Times." Bugs accuses Bob of fronting a company that diverts public-housing funds in order to buy transport planes and smuggle cocaine. Bugs is too much of a flake for the establishment press to notice. But the Bob machine does, resulting in drastic covert action.

The film's increasing gravity isn't a downer---the situation requires it. Robbins knows that Bob is merely a symptom of a larger problem that won't go away until we overcome the apathy that allows forces to control our thinking. Sure, the finale, at the Jefferson Memorial, is as cornball as Capra. Ditto the film's final image, a card reading: vote. Maybe Robbins is being naive in thinking that his impassioned little $4 million movie will help to change things. More power to him.

---Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

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10 Aug 2004 @ 05:42 by Aiden @ : Don't fence me in, Mr. Bush
The Times they aren't a-changing back
Nor can the genie ever be stuffed back into the bottle.
The genie is life.
And your rules, they are not carved in stone.

{link:http://mywebpage.netscape.com/gerhardmas2/DontFenceMeIn.htm|Don't fence me in}, Mr. Bush
Lots of land under starry mindscape skies above,
Don't fence me in,
Let me ride thru
The wide open country that I love,
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge
Where the New Civilization commences,
Gaze at the moon
Till I lose my senses;
Can't look at dogmatic ideological hobbles
And I can't stand fences,
Don't fence me in.
No. Mr. {link:http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/7027/quotes.html|Pat Robertson},
No. Mr. George Bush ({link:http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Banana_Republicans:_The_War_at_Home|Mr. Karl Rove, Mr. David Horowitz, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. John Ashcrof, Mr. Tom DeLay})
don't you fence me in.  

11 Aug 2004 @ 17:57 by Sellitman @ : The Great Divide
"Lots of land under starry [mindscape] skies above," yes, and yet there are people (lots of people) who want to be fenced in—they feel safer and like it better that way. The irony is that while the perception is that people are concerned that the current administration has alienated most of the world around us, the fact of the matter is that there are people who actually rejoice in it! They like things simple and clear-cut, "here vs. over there", "black and white", "right and wrong." Large open mindscapes make them uneasy—dizzy, even. They suffer from "cultural agoraphobia"—the fear of pluralism and the fear of cultural/ideological open spaces. They fear "the hordes of opposing values, cultures and customs" of what they perceive as "a threatening amalgamation of alien and clashing beliefs and a betrayal of the 'traditional American values'"—i.e. mostly their evangelical christian perception of it. People like "Bob Roberts" (the fictional character in the movie) or "us vs. them" slogans, like "if you are not with us, you are against us" appeal to them. George W. Bush is their hero!

This difference is what is today at the core of the great American political divide. It is more than just a traditional social/cultural/religious/political divide; the difference goes deeper than that. The difference is psychological (and it is also reflected globally in other parts of the world and other cultures.) It's the difference between people who favor open systems (open/infinite/complex/undefined/expanding spaces) and people who are more comfortable with closed systems (closed/finite/simple/well-defined/limited space with a clear beginning and a known end.)

The latter need rules to guide their lives (this is the reason why, even though they claim they want "less government," they actually favor authoritarian/patriarchal regimes—the Bush administration is such a regime, they feel comfortable with it); they need a comprehensible black and white universe (with no gray areas) where everything ("the Truth") is explained and they are told what to do; they need to know that there is a reason to everything and that by conforming to a given set of simple rules like the Bible or the Patriot Act, or elsewhere in the world, the Koran, or the Vedas, or the Celestine Prophecies (in the New Age movement,) etc., they will be walking the "right" path and/or will be safe in this world or the next one.

The former... Well, the former, they look at the world as an {link:http://www.newciv.org/ncn/ncninfinite.html|Infinite game}, don't they? They look at life as a {link:http://faculty.washington.edu/lord|mystery} and they like it that way. (Incidentally, they may have or not have read the Bible, or the Koran, or the Vedas, or the Celestine Prophecies, etc., and I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the Bible, or the Koran, or the Vedas, or the Celestine Prophecies, or religion in general, and that's not the point, ultimately what matters is not so much what one reads but HOW one reads it and what one does with it.  

11 Aug 2004 @ 18:38 by spiritseek : right on Sellitman
"what matters is not so much what one reads but HOW one reads it and what one does with it." That kinda puts it outside the box or cage which ever way opens up the world and all the possible choices out there.  

12 Aug 2004 @ 17:00 by Hanae @ : Preying on prejudices, ignorance,
and the politicization of religion!

(what one does with it)

We are prompt to denounce such form of abuse when we see it abroad, especially in the Far and Middle east. But mostly we are blind to it when it takes place in our own backyard.

A classmate told me today that "the nation needs a Godly spiritual revival to survive" and that "President Bush is pointing us in the right direction by standing up for family values" and by having the courage and the moral rectitude to make it public "that Jesus Christ was the most influential person in his life."


Was my classmate implying that G. W. Bush best represent Jesus Christ?

Not being myself a Christian, I might not be as knowledgeable as my classmate when it comes to Christian values but somehow I doubt that Jesus would count selfishness, gun-waving and a callous disregard for the needs of the working poor as the nub of family values.

The argument about the need for "a spiritual revival" is one I can relate to however, provided, of course, it is meant in a non sectarian fashion and not presented, as it was, in such an obvious religious and political partisan manner by my classmate—on the eve of the coming presidential election.

As I said, I am no expert on Christianity but my understanding is that Jesus proclaimed that how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you treat Jesus himself. I do not believe that neither party, Republicans or Democrats, have a monopoly on Christianity, let alone "spirituality." In that regard, I did point out to my classmate that I seemed to recall that Democratic presidents and/or Democratic congresses since the Great Depression have enacted 77 programs on behalf of the poor, the needy, and the ordinary working men and women of America. And more often than not, they were achieved over the strenuous opposition of the Republican party. But, I rapidly found out that my classmate had little interest in the need of the hungry, and the thirsty, and the sick, and she promptly told me about Sodom and Gomorrah and explained that concern for the poor and for economic justice (she called it Communism and reminded me that Communists are Atheists) was not as important a Christian issue to her as was the more current and pressing controversy over "Gay marriage." I wonder how many Christians feel like her?

Just out of curiosity I checked about Sodom and Gomorrah (the internet is a wonderful thing,) and this is what I found:

"49. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." [Ezekiel 16:49-50]

I'll have to ask her about that, next time we meet. I am glad i have a Christian friend with whom I can talk about such things, there is so much I need to learn.  

12 Aug 2004 @ 18:11 by Judy Lawrence @ : If you don't work you don't eat.
That's what it says (2 Thessalonians 3:5-15)

5. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 6. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8. we did not eat any one's bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. 9. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. 10. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. 11. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. 12. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. 13. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing. 14. If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.  

14 Aug 2004 @ 14:44 by Hanae @ : Your bringing this up
shows a certain mean-spiritedness, as if everyone hungry on earth is hungry because they simply don’t want to work. How many people do you really think that applies to? Is there anyone who would starve to death rather than work? What about the children who are starving, how does this passage apply to them? What about the people slaving away in agricultural fields who barely earn enough to feed their families...but are picking the food for you to feed yours? What about the children? Are they lazy bums who refuse to work? Did they make bad choices in life whose consequences they must now live with? You seem to be implying that the “poor” don’t want to help themselves, that they are freeloaders. The fact is, no one works harder than those who pick our crops from sunrise to sunset in sweltering, pesticide-contaminated fields. Or those people who work two full-time jobs in what is often still a futile attempt to make ends meet.

Unlike you, I am not a Christian, Judy, but here is what a Christian ({link:http://www.osjspm.org/cst/ca.htm|John Paul II}) had to say on the topic:

“It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor – as individuals and as people – are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of ALL HUMANITY.” (Emphasis added.)  

14 Aug 2004 @ 14:52 by E_Johnson @ : Truisms & Conscience-Soothing Falsities
I can't imagine anyone not having concerns for the poor. You hate to see a child neglected and abused, and we have neglected and abused our children in American society. We play political games around it.

Reducing poverty is a Sisyphean task in a culture in which poverty is looked upon as a necessary evil. For the poorest of the poor, their problem is not that they “are not taking responsibility for their lives” (which is what Judy suggests) but rather that they are poor, and poverty is caused by inequities, which are not addressed by such easy conscience-soothing truisms that “when the going gets tough, the toughs keep going” or “when life gives one lemons, there are those who make lemonade.” There is a notion that destitution is the wage of sin (Christian Right, Hinduism) or of “not taking responsibility for one’s own life” (New-Age Right) and that the poor are poor, and the sick are sick, and the oppressed are oppressed because of their own deeds, or lack of deeds.

"Trifling truisms clothed in great, swelling words" have become part of a victim blaming ideology which manages to disguise itself as ‘progressive' so that it can appeal to both liberals and greens, without involving any genuine changes for a new and better civilization (other than religion and “self-improvement” formulas,) which is one of the defining characteristic of all victim blaming ideologies.  

15 Aug 2004 @ 13:34 by Judy Lawrence @ : The Serenity Prayer

"Take your life in your own hands and what happens?
A terrible thing: no one is to blame."
- Erica Jong, Author

We have often read, heard or even prayed a little prayer they call the "Serenity Prayer" (Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, of the Union Theological Seminary in NewYork City, composed it in 1932.) It goes as follows:

GOD, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and the
Wisdom to know the difference.

The prayer continues with a section that we are not so familiar with:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  

15 Aug 2004 @ 15:30 by ov : Bushism?
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

— George W. Bush -- Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Freudian slip, or simply the plain unvarnished truth?  

15 Aug 2004 @ 15:53 by E_Johnson @ : The Serenity Prayer
I am so glad you are quoting Reinhold Niebuhr, Judy. How appropriate!

Niebuhr knew that "authentic serenity" never fled into the "cellars of irrelevance," or engaged in "parsonic pieties."

He hated the kind of pietistic righteousness that divorced itself from the real world of politics.

He gagged when he saw churches reduce the "peace and serenity of God" into a cotton-candy commodity.

All his life he fought against far right conservatives because they usually disregarded the imperatives of social justice.

Learning to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed is no easy task.

Millions of people around the world were incapable of deterring President Bush, and a weak and complicit congress, from invading Iraq. Mr. Bush was deaf to the message, congress reacted in dumb silence, and now our nation is blind—unable to find a way out of the quicksand of violence and war into which we are sinking.

It is hard to know what to pray for or what action to take—how to link faith and politics in a way that acknowledges what can be changed, and the courage to work for that change.

How does one discern what things can and cannot be changed? Why do FEEL-GOOD MEGA-PREACHERS like Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham—two evangelists who never risked their tremendous personal popularity by broaching a difficult subject, and rarely lifted a finger to help a social cause—emphasize such uncertainty and stress the "accepting things" part of the prayer rather than the "courage" part about making a stand to change what needs to be, and CAN BE, changed. Is it because uncertainty has a way of chilling commitment and freezing the human spirit, thus making risky leaps of faith seem impossible? And worst of all, is serenity no more than a hiding place for a timid soul fearful of action that might really bring about change?  

17 Aug 2004 @ 19:48 by Aiden @ : A man with Jesus in his heart?
{link:http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20031222&s=stam|Bush's Religious Language}: "When Bush decided to run for office, political strategist Karl Rove helped him make the link with the evangelical sector. While other candidates were discussing polemical themes, Rove advised him that it was much better for him to simply speak about his faith. Bush presented himself as "a man with Jesus in his heart." When a reporter asked him who his favorite philosopher was, Bush replied: 'Christ, because he changed my heart.' That corresponded perfectly to the extreme individualism of fundamentalism, and it constituted what in the metalanguage of evangelical code words is called 'personal witness. (...) Bush does not seem to have much hesitation in identifying God with his own project. In a speech in September 2002, Bush cited a Christological text in reference to his war project: "And the light [America] has shone in the darkness [the enemies of America], and the darkness will not overcome it [America shall conquer its enemies]." When he appeared in a flight suit aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, he said to the troops: "And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope--a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, come out! to those who are in darkness, be free!'"  

17 Aug 2004 @ 20:41 by Hanae @ : Was Jesus in his heart, then:
When at the World Food Summit, held in Rome, Italy, from June 10-13, 2002, the United States stood alone among 182 nations in {link:http://www.foodfirst.org/media/opeds/2002/usopposes.html|opposing the right to food}.  

18 Aug 2004 @ 00:11 by Hanae @ : 1 John 3:17-18

"17. But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18. Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth."  

18 Aug 2004 @ 01:15 by newdawn : actions
speak louder than words. Do the actions substanciate the words, if not then discernment needs to be applied to the situation, man etc and truth needs to be acknowledged by the heart not hidden under the hard rock of more rhetoric.  

18 Aug 2004 @ 17:31 by E_Johnson @ : And truth needs to be acknowledged
Absolutely, newdawn - timely comment!

A top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and the situation there has deteriorated into "a dangerous, costly mess."

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Rep. Doug Bereuter wrote in a letter to his constituents.

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action," he said.

Bereuter is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become the president of the Asia Foundation effective Sept. 1.

The letter, sent to constituents who have contacted him about the war, was reported by the Lincoln Journal Star in its Wednesday editions.

In 2002, Bereuter had spoken out in support of a House resolution authorizing the president to go to war.

President Bush has continued to argue the war was justified because Saddam represented a threat to the United States, his neighbors and the people of Iraq.

In addition to "a massive failure or misinterpretation of intelligence," Bereuter said the Bush administration made several other errors in going to war despite warnings about the consequences.

"From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force," he said. "Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world."

Bereuter said as a result of the war, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."

{link:http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=514&e=7&u=/ap/20040818/ap_on_go_co/congressman_iraq_4|Associated Press}  

18 Aug 2004 @ 17:54 by ov : Understanding Reed
A top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and the situation there has deteriorated into "a dangerous, costly mess."

A good day to: Bless or repair your house.  

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