"Everything is as it should be."

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© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

2018 Mid-Term Elections

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Ever since Trump was elected president in 2016, the media have declared that he would face a comeuppance in the form of vast Democrat victories, or as they call it, a “blue wave”, come the 2018 mid-term elections. While I would like to think that would happen…I don’t think that will happen.

As long time readers know, I was one of “those people” who, in the face of a cavalcade of opposite opinion in the media and in my social circles, accurately predicted Trump’s victory in 2016. As I said in my writing from that time, I didn’t want Trump to win (nor was I a Hillary supporter), I just thought he would. I ended up being right and we have all had to suffer through the never ending reality show that is Trump TV ever since.

The formula I used to predict Trump’s 2016 victory is my McCaffrey Wave Theory, which again, I am sure long-time readers are sick of hearing about…but what can you do? My wave theory uses, among other things, popular culture, most specifically, at least currently, film and television, as indicators of the mood in the collective unconscious. The formula of the McCaffrey Wave Theory is actually very complex and complicated, and takes into account numerous cultural and historical “waves” or “cycles” that are all simultaneously in motion.

Interpreting the data from these waves/cycles and measuring their relationship to one another is how the McCaffrey Wave Theory is able to “predict” certain turn of events. And to be clear, this is not about being Nostradamus and saying planes will fly into buildings on 9-11, but rather about understanding the ebbs and flows of the collective unconscious and knowing when both big and small shifts will occur when portions of the collective unconscious become conscious.

The key elements of the McCaffrey Wave Theory are the archetypes, narratives and sub-texts prominent in films/tv along with their color scheme and visual/cinematic tendencies. These data points are how my wave/cycle theory is able to discern which films and/or television shows are leading indicators and which are lagging indicators of the collective unconscious. Leading indicator films are the ones that express the unconscious desires/fears of the collective, while lagging indicator films are the ones that express conscious fears or desires of the collective.

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Some examples of leading indicator film and tv were pretty obvious in 2017 when HULU’s A Handmaid’s Tale (its narrative and vibrant red and green color scheme) and the DC film Wonder Woman (its narrative and red and blue color scheme) jumped to the fore of our culture in the early summer. These two successful projects accurately foretold of the coming feminist outcry and the rise of the #MeToo movement in the wake of the Weinstein revelations that came out in October of 2017.

A good example of a lagging indicator film was in 2017 as well, when Steven Spielberg rushed into production his thinly veiled anti-Trump/pro-Hillary film, The Post, that underwhelmed both at the box office and come awards time. The Post failed both artistically and financially because it was little more than wish fulfillment that attempted to give the audience what it wanted, not what the collective sub-conscious needed.

In the years leading up to the rise of Trump in 2016, there were numerous films and television shows that were ominous signs of a very dark impulse coming to the fore in American life and across the globe.

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Two glaring examples were HBO’s Game of Thrones with its marketing campaign which for years was warning us all with their ice-blue billboards proclaiming that “Winter is Coming”. The other was Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, a show about what America would be like if the Nazi’s and Japanese won World War II, which hit the airwaves in 2015 accompanied by a prodigious marketing campaign which had the Nazi Eagle on the American flag and the Imperial Japanese flag plastered all over the New York subway and elsewhere. Both of those shows resonated within the culture because they accurately gave voice to what was lurking in our collective unconscious. On some level we knew what was coming…a horrible “winter” and the Nazi’s/Not Sees…and these shows knew it before we were even conscious of it. (and don’t kid yourself, the Nazi/Not See impulse is not solely of the right, the left has a strong Not See impulse too).

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In 2015 there were many films that were also giving us warning signs of big trouble ahead. The Martian, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were all through their narratives, color schemes (Martian - Red, Hateful 8 - Blue, Revenant - Blue, Star Wars - Red and Blue) and cinematic visuals (shots of foreboding vast expanses) the equivalent of a flashing red sign that a gigantic storm was coming.

In 2016 things got even clearer, as the blockbusters Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and even La La Land all revealed through their narratives (internecine warfare), sub-text and color schemes (all of them with vibrant clashes of red and blue) that our cultural train was headed off the track if not the cliff.

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As I have previously written, last year cinema gave us some signs of what to expect going forward. The big archetype of the year in 2017 was Winston Churchill…with the films Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and the Netflix show The Crown. The Churchill archetype can be interpreted in numerous ways, but when seen in conjunction with other wave/cycles, it strikes me that the Churchill archetype is manifesting in the Trump’s of the world…in other words…it is actually the Churchill shadow archetype that is taking center stage.

Which brings us to this year and the mid-terms. As I said, there has been incessant talk of a blue wave and in its jubilant wake the possibility of a Democratic House and maybe even Senate where, like a scene out of The Godfather where Michael settles all family business, liberals exact revenge by impeaching not only of Trump but Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. As entertaining as that liberal porn may be…I don’t think it is going to happen.

According to my wave theory, there will be no blue wave. Not only will the Democrats not win the Senate, I don’t think they will win the House either, and if they do it will be by the skin of their teeth. Now…before you stick your head in the oven…to be very, very clear…I could certainly be wrong about this, God knows it wouldn’t be the first time. For starters, I have never used my wave theory to predict a mid-term before, and it could be I am interpreting the data entirely incorrectly, this is a distinct possibility. But with that said, ever since last June, when I wrote a piece for CounterPunch on the topic, along with a follow up posting on this blog in July, I have thought that this blue wave was a mirage.

As I stated in my CounterPunch piece, the big warning signs for me were the prominence and success of both Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, both of which had narratives, sub-text and color scheme that spoke clearly of the failure of the opposition to Trump to succeed in toppling him.

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Other films, such as A Quiet Place, Hereditary and even A Star is Born, that have all resonated deeply within the culture this year, are also leading indicators of a Democratic failure come the mid-terms because of their narratives and sub-text. Believe it or not, A Star is Born is remarkably insightful sub-textually and that sub-text very clearly (once you crack the code of it) states that if not Trump, then at least Trumpism, is here to stay as a replacement for the old paradigm, as indicated by the song in the film “Maybe it’s time we let the old ways die”. (I hope to have a full analysis of A Star is Born done soon).

Just as importantly, there are lagging indicator films that are, just like Spielberg’s The Post in 2017, falling flat, which highlight what isn’t resonating in the collective unconscious. Films with similar narratives, like the “aggrieved and under-appreciated genius wife/power behind the throne” stories of The Wife and Colette, or the “police shooting/racism” films The Hate U Give, Monsters and Men and Blindspotting, have all fallen flat in the broader culture. Even the colossal failure of the cinematic celebration of multi-culturalism and female empowerment, A Wrinkle in Time, is telling us what is going on in our collective unconscious, and it isn’t good news.

Now…maybe I am dead wrong about all this…maybe I am misreading and misinterpreting the data, that is a distinct possibility. Maybe the Democrats win a huge majority in the House and even get one in the Senate…but neither of those things will lead to a return to “normal”…only an escalation of the clash for civilization that is currently taking place.

Even if Democrats win, the intensity of the political turmoil here in America will not recede but proceed at an even quicker pace. Two more years of impeachment talk and congressional hearings will only heighten the tensions that are already near a boil. If you thought Trump was awful these last two years, wait until he faces an existential threat to his presidency from a Democratically controlled House and possibly Senate.

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On the other hand, if, as I have been predicting since June, there is not blue wave, don’t expect tensions to lessen. If Democrats fail to gain the House, Trump will turn his obnoxiousness up to 11 and liberals and the media will ratchet up the crazy to unseen heights. And on top of that, if Mueller ends his investigation with no bombshells or smoking gun of “Russian collusion”, the liberal and Democratic meltdown will make Chernobyl look like a cookout.

In other words…no matter the outcome on November 6th, the conflagration that is American politics will only grow bigger, hotter and much more dangerous.

The reality is that there is no stopping the collapse of the institutions of western civilizations. Trust me, we have a very, very bumpy road ahead. That means more authoritarianism across the globe (Bolsonaro will win in Brazil) and more shocks to the system, like economic earthquakes, natural disasters and war.

The good news is that this current wave/cycle of collapse and destruction will not last forever. Eventually, after maybe a decade or so (or God help us a decade or two), this collapse and destruction wave/cycle will transform into a more optimistic wave/cycle of growth, stability, relative peace and prosperity. Remember, destruction is the first act of creation, and we will create, hopefully, a more just, localized, thoughtful and sustainable civilization in the crater where this one once stood.

As for the bad news…we are still in the destruction phase…and come November 7th there are going to be a lot of really pissed off Democrats, liberals and anti-Trumpers, who will still have no power in Washington with which to vent their rage. And if you thought things have been bad the last two years, what ‘til you get a load of what comes next because you ain’t seen nothing yet.


©2018

La La Land is Hollywood's Version of "Make America Great Again"

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 18 seconds

THIS IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE FILM LA LA LAND. THE FIRST CAN BE FOUND HERE.

La La Land is Hollywood’s version of “Make America Great Again”

 Hollywood is revolted by Trump, and Trump voters resent Hollywood, but both are enchanted by the same quintessentially American myth. The optimistic nostalgia of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and La La Land are proof of the delusional fairy tale that binds us all together.

“People love what other people are passionate about” – Mia

 La La Land, which is nominated for a record tying 14 Academy Awards, is a fantasy-musical that tells the story of Mia, a barista and aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a struggling musician, as they navigate their relationship and the travails of life in Hollywood. While the story of Mia and Sebastian is a play on the age-old musical love story, the more elemental myth at the films core is one of passionately delusional confidence and a wistful yearning for a return to glory.

Just like the premise of La La Land, Trump’s candidacy was founded on a similar type of exuberant expectation and backward-looking inspiration. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was nebulous and hopeful, just like previous successful campaigns, from Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America”, to Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” to Obama’s “Hope and Change” and “Yes We Can”. This upbeat and anticipatory message has successfully played upon American’s hopeful idealism for generations.

 “How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but Jazz is about the future.” – Keith

 Trump’s harkening back to a past time of national grandeur is echoed in La La Land as well. The film is a cinematic ode to Hollywood’s history. Mia, played by Emma Stone, was raised on vintage movies and works at a coffee shop on a studio lot, where she can point out where all the classic scenes of old were shot. In addition, Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is a jazz purist, traditionalist and staunch idealist. Jazz, the kind Sebastian reveres, was at its creative heights in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s, which coincides with Hollywood’s golden age of the classical musical. This pre-1960’s revolution era, is often thought to be the time Trump refers to when he proclaims he is going to  “Make America Great Again”.

 “I’m letting life hit me ‘til it gets tired. Then I’ll hit back. It’s a classic rope a dope.” – Sebastian

 Like Trump the billionaire, selling the American success story, La La Land reinforces the age-old Hollywood rags to riches tale. If Mia, the barista, works hard enough, and believes strong enough, then her dream of making it as an actress will become reality. As an acting coach out here in Los Angeles, I can testify that there is a never ending tide of young people from across the country who come here inspired by that same story. They may or may not have talent, or looks, or a work ethic, but like Mia, they all have a dream and limitless ambition.

 “They worship everything and value nothing.” – Sebastian

 And I know, “regular” people in Middle-America may laugh at these eager would-be actors and think they’re foolish for following their dream. I understand, it seems ridiculous from the outside looking in, but left coast liberals think the same of their flyover country opposites. Those Springsteen voters, the white-working class Trump supporters from the rust belt, seem just as optimistically foolhardy as the fresh-off-the-bus, wannabe starlets who come to Tinseltown by the thousands to claim their millions. The ingénue has La La Land as inspiration, and the Springsteen voter has Trump as aspirational figure. Both are certainly being unrealistic and impractical, but that doesn’t mean their dreams won’t come true, just that it’s a very long shot at best.

 The thing about Americans, regardless of political party, race or religion is that they not only want to believe, they need to believe. Americans will buy into anyone or anything that restores their belief in their country or themselves. Making people “believe” in their dreams has been the film industry’s goal from day one. The Hollywood sign might as well be a banner that says “Dreams For Sale” that looms over the entire city. Trump has made a name, a fortune and a presidency, out of doing the same thing. Trump has convinced, and his opponents would say “conned”, people into putting their trust into him to restore their dream for the country.

 “You’re a barista, I can see how you can look down on me from all the way up there.” – Sebastian

 While both Trump and La La Land are selling sentimentality for a bygone era, they’re also putting a new twist on that old song and dance. For instance, La La Land is not just a rehash of the old classical musical, but is a reimaging of the musical genre, it is a “millennial musical”, if you will. The film is intentionally less polished, and therefore seemingly more genuine, that its glitzy and fancy forebears. The film’s two stars, Gosling and Stone, are good enough at singing and dancing, but not nearly as technically impeccable as the classically-trained musical stars of old. The reason for this is their short-comings make them more human and therefore appealing to the modern audience which values relate-ability over all else.

 Trump is similar in that he is a politician for the millennial age. His speeches are not like the speeches of the consummate politicos he went up against. He speaks roughly, off-the-cuff, just like his audience. That is why Trump resonated with those Springsteen voters, they thought that even though he was a silver-spooned billionaire, he was rough around the edges, like them. As with La La Land, it is Trump’s flaws that made him more attractive to his crowds, because it made him approachable.

 “Maybe I’m not good enough!” – Mia

 “Yes you are!” – Sebastian

 “Maybe I’m not, it’s like a pipe dream!” – Mia

 “This is the dream! It’s conflict and compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!” – Sebastian

 As an example of the psychological need many people have for myth, I will relate a brief anecdote. I had a discussion many years ago with an actor who was in his late-seventies. He was a tremendous guy, gigantic heart, just the salt of the earth. He had never had any success as an actor at all, none, but he loved doing it and he hustled his butt off to look for work. To give you an indication of where he was in his career, at the time of our conversation, his only work was volunteering as a stand-up comedian at a nursing home. We were chatting one day about our lives and our love of acting, film and theatre, when he paused as if to compose himself.

 He slowly turned to me and looked me right in the eye and with a deeply moving sincerity he said, “I gotta tell you, Mick, sometimes I wonder…am I ever going to make it?”

 I was taken aback by his heartfelt emotion, I kept silent but put my hand on his shoulder to reassure him.

 He then said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do if I don’t make it.”

 I knew very well that he was never going to “make it”, but seeing the desolation in his eyes at even the briefest consideration of that fact, reinforced my decision not to burst his bubble.

 It would be easy to think of my starry-eyed compatriot as a fool or crazy, as his pie-in-the-sky vision of stardom was obviously a pipe dream. But like the unemployed machinist in Youngstown or the former assembly line worker in Flint, my old-timer pal wasn’t insane, just a hopeless dreamer. My friend, like those rust belt Trump voters, wanted to believe that his life could be better. He needed to believe in the fable that Hollywood presented to him, just like regular Americans need to believe in the tale Trump is offering them, which happens to be the same. This myth gave my friend’s life meaning just as Trump has given a purpose to those who felt like they had none.

“Here’s to the one’s who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.’ – Mia

 My friend has long since died, his dreams of theatrical notoriety buried with him. I don’t doubt that he would have loved La La Land as it would have spoken to his inherent love of the fantastical and his eternal hope for the impossible, just like Springsteen voters love Trump.

 The title of the film La La Land has two meanings, the first, is that it is a nickname for the movie’s setting, the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood. The second definition of the term is “a fanciful state or dream world.”  La La Land, its title’s multiple meanings and the parable at its core, are a wonderful metaphor for the current state of America. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all live in La La Land now. 

Previously published at RT

©2017

Welcome to La La Land!!

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 27 seconds

THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE FILM LA LA LAND.

The phrase La La Land has two meanings, one is shorthand for the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood, the second “a fanciful state or dreamworld.”  Both the movie La La Land and the terms two definitions directly apply to the current delusional state of America.

This past January, the film La La Land, which cleverly plays upon both definitions of that term, was nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards. The movie, a fantasy-musical, tells the story of Mia, a young aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a struggling musician, as they navigate their relationship and the travails of life in Hollywood.

At its heart though, La La Land is really just another of Hollywood’s cinematic odes to itself. Like Narcissus falling deeply in love with his own reflection, Hollywood adores gazing at itself lovingly. La La Land is one more in a long line of movies that allows Hollywood to tell a story about how wonderful it is. From Show People in 1928 to Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain to Fellini's 8 1/2 to 2011 Oscar winner The Artist, and lots of movies in between, the film industry has a long history of rewarding moviemakers who spend time celebrating Hollywood’s favorite subject, itself.

 The scorn heaped on Hollywood for its vain and congratulatory view of itself along with its eternal frivolity, is hard earned and well deserved. But don’t kid yourself, Hollywood’s brazen self-worship and facetiousness is just a symptom of a much more widespread disease of delusional self-love and un-seriousness that has infected the entirety of our culture. For this reason and others, I believe that La La Land is indeed the perfect film for our times.

 To see an example of La La Land as both “a fanciful state or dreamworld” and an act of ludicrous self-absorption, one need look no further than our nation's capital. We have just finished two weeks of the Trump administration, and our current Narcissist-in-Chief and the odious press corps who hang on his every word, have shown an astonishing level of egoism and frivolity that is easily on par with their navel-gazing counterparts out here in Tinseltown.

The vainglorious Trump spent his first weeks in office arguing with the pompous media about the size of his inauguration crowd and the millions of people he claimed had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. It was even revealed that Trump had pressured the Parks Service to find proof for his inauguration crowd number claims. The insidiously dramatic press covered Trump’s vacuous claims like they were Soviet naval maneuvers during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Meanwhile, America’s drone war continues unabated in the Middle Eastthe U.S. backed war in Yemen rages on and Navy SEALs murdered an 8 year old American girl with nary a mention from our intrepid reporters in the commercial media. If this isn’t La La Land, I don’t know what is.

Just like the film La La Land is an example of Hollywood’s undying self-admiration, the kerfluffle over the inauguration is an example of the virulent narcissism of both Trump and the media. A story so inconsequential as the attendance figures at an inauguration can only be relevant because it is serves as a proxy for the pissing contest between Trump and the media. Neither the President nor the press, gives a flying fuck about the American people, only their own self-interests. In a battle for egoic supremacy, Trump and the press corps have battled to a stand still thus far, but we are only two weeks in and this repugnant nonsense appears to have no end in sight.

Trump’s vanity and egocentricity were entertaining when he played himself on the Celebrity Apprentice, but in the role of President they are deeply disconcerting. At least with the film La La Land, Hollywood’s self-aggrandizing but whimsical nature will keep you occupied for two hours, but then you can leave the theatre and return to real life. You can’t walk out of Trump’s America, or away from his desperate and delusional self-worship and triviality, or from the cocky, puffed up, braggadocio he calls his foreign policy,  or from the administration's fantastical claims of Iranian acts of war or imaginary massacres in middle America.

 In addition to the bafflingly myopic egotism of President Trump, we have a rabid yet impotent press corps devoid of any interest in subjects of any depth or substance. A great example of this was a few weeks ago when President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s thirty-five year sentence for violating the Espionage Act. While watching cable news I witnessed segment after segment that discussed Manning’s genitals, Obama’s supposed compassion and even Julian Assange’s alleged vanity, but not once did anyone mention the most critical part of the Manning story, the war crimes that she had revealed. Talk about living in La La Land.

 This is typical for our mainstream media, they only cover the salacious and insubstantial, like Manning’s transgenderism or Trump’s delusional inauguration attendance numbers, while ignoring or diminishing the more profound and morally troubling stories, like American war crimes, the Navy SEALs murdering an 8 year old American girl, and the continuing devastation in Yemen.

 Hollywood, Trump and the mainstream media are all in the same business, the business of giving the people what they want. Hollywood deceives itself with a vision of its own magnificence with the movie La La Land, while Trump cons America with a revisionist form of utopianism with “Make America Great Again”, and the press deludes itself with self-serving grandiosity by thinking that they are all Woodward and Bernstein breathlessly breaking their own Watergate (and no doubt dreaming of who will play them in the movie!) with the inauguration numbers story.

 The curious thing about Hollywood, Trump and the mainstream media is that they all loathe one another because they mirror back to each other their own malignant and delusional narcissism. When Hollywood rants against the reality TV star turned politician Trump, it is because he reflects back at them their own self-absorption and furious hunger for validation. When Trump rages against the commercial media it is because he despises them for mirroring back to him his own staggeringly deep-seeded insecurities and tenuous relationship with the truth. And the commercial media detest Trump because he echoes back to them their own asinine vacuity and superciliousness.

 And even though we in the public would like to think otherwise, we are no better. We love Trump, Hollywood or the media for the lies they tell us, and for allowing us to live in our own “fanciful state or dreamworld”. Whichever one of the three tells us what we want to hear, they are the one that we will believe. Whoever tells us contrary facts, we will mercilessly label as a liar. What matters most is not the Truth, but that we are proven right. So we filter our newsfeeds to buttress our viewpoint and confirm our bias. We use cognitive dissonance in order to avoid any mental or emotional anxiety brought on by information that conflicts with our previously held worldview.

A brief look at the polls proves my point, Clinton voters cling to any and all stories that reaffirm the belief that the election was tampered with by Russia or the FBI. And Trump voters embrace any story that he tells them, from his claim of winning the popular vote to there being three to five million fraudulent votes for his opponent.

We have gotten the La La Land country and culture we deserve. Hollywood gives us the garbage movies we demand because we throw money at them to see one empty-headed sequel after another and then complain that no one has any original ideas anymore. We have the President we have earned because like us, he is a self-absorbed charlatan who sells the hungry public “a fanciful state and dreamworld” and yet we complain of fake news and living in a post-truth world. And finally, we get the media we deserve, a vacuous and insipid bunch of self-centered drama queens who entertain us with conflict rather than inform us with content because we prefer to be lost in the fantasy of La La Land than wake up to the stark reality of the cold hard world.

 You can make fun of me, and my artistic compatriots, out here in the original La La Land for our delusional self-love and substance-free storytelling, but don’t kid yourself, the rest of America is just as deluded, self-absorbed and shallow as we are. Two weeks into the Trump administration, and we have all officially taken up residence in a Hollywood-esque La La Land, or fanciful dreamworld, where egomania, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias rule the day, and Truth is a stranger in a strange land. Unlike in the contrived fantasy world of the film La La Land, in the real world, I seriously doubt we will get a happy ending.

©2017