Thursday, April 16, 2009

Phoenix Arizona Tea Party Report

Well I rolled into the P Town after a grueling day of selling stuff and decided to join my fellow right wing extremists at the Tea Party. By the time I got there the crowd was already large. By 6 PM the crowd was at around 6000 domestic "troublemakers" withe the final headcount between 10k-15k at it's peak. This was supposedly the largest political rally in Phoenix history.

The primary organizer for the event was the local conservative talk station 550 KFYI. I was hoping to get to see The Nearly Famous Barry Young, but either he didn't speak or he spoke before I arrived. The speakers consisted of a mix of local politicians, conservative community activists, and radio personalities. The mix was nice because it wasn't just straight republicans. There was a democrat who is fighting against property taxes, a former Libertarian party candidate for governor (who was my favorite speaker of the night), you had your Ron Paul supporters, and the head of the Arizona Fair Tax group spoke.

The crowd itself was also a nice mix of young and old. I saw people representing just about every party outside of the left. The crowd was fired up and it was fun to be a part of the whole protest.

The set up of the protest was lacking somewhat. The Tea Party was held at the State Capital on the lawn out front of the copper dome. KFYI set up a stage, but it was not raised very high, so you couldn't see any of the speakers and worse you couldn't hear them because of the poor sound system set up. I don't know if they weren't prepared for the turnout they got. I did eventually work my way up close to the front using techniques I've mastered from attending way too many metal concerts. Once I was close enough I could hear and see fine.

I was glad I went. It got me thinking about getting more involved. I talked to a Republican party official who was advertising about getting people to become Precinct Committeemen. While I no longer consider myself a Republican and would be a member of the Constitution Party if it was recognized as an official party in Az, the thought intrigues me. Apparently most of the slots are open so there are few true conservatives fighting the scourge of moderates that have plagued the Republican Party. It might be a way to make more of an impact than my protest vote every election.

I didn't have a way to take good notes, but here were some of my favorite quotes, which won't be exact but you get the gist:

The Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants-Thomas Jefferson. The speaker followed up with a comment about how anxious we must be knowing it is time to do the watering or something like that,

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."-Barry Goldwater

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom." - Adrian Rogers

"The founding fathers knew that the First Amendment was the most important which is why they put it at the top. They placed the second amendment there as a backup if the government should fail the first." I don't know who said it and it is a poor paraphrase.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Woud the real Transformers: The Movie stand up?

What constitutes a classic movie? In my mind there are two types of classics. You have the movies that are critically acclaimed and receive thoughtful praise by those who consider themselves experts in the area of cinema. Then there is the other type of classic is one much more personal. These movies rarely receive the praise they deserve by gatekeepers of fine art, but nonetheless touch people and become one of those binding threads among friends.

I’m here today to offer a tribute to one of my personal classics. A film that should have been a landmark in modern animation, but through poor marketing and even poorer box office returns, got tossed aside into the dustbin of failed sure fire hits. I’m speaking of the 1986 animated film The Transformers: The movie.

The colossal failure of this movie still puzzles me to this day. There are few men I know from my generation that don’t think of this movie fondly. This should have been a hit based alone on the built in market. Perhaps that was its doom. Boys of my generation lived during the golden age of after school cartoons. Unlike my parents that had some cartoons on the weekend and my son who has access to non-stop cartoons around the clock via Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and the Internet, we were only able to get our action fix for a glorious period of a few hours after school. Saturday morning cartoons were a plus but they did not match the power packed combination of such classics as He-Man, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and of coarse Transformers. Now our parents knew these were just half-hour long commercials for the much more lucrative toys. Perhaps the thought that our regular fix of cartoons nearly broke the bank come birthday and Christmas time and the thought of what an 84-minute dose of pure Transformer fury would do their pocketbook was too much to bear. It’s that or the movie company and the general viewing public had their heads up their collective rears. You be the judge.

What made this movie special is that it there was no reason to believe that something special was about to be unleashed. The Transformers like all of our favorite afternoon cartoons had shoddy animation, decent but not great acting and each episode followed the same basic premise of the bad guys come up with a new plan to vanquish the good guys and take over whatever it is they are after, the good guys foil the plan, and then the bad guys run away cursing the good guys and vowing revenge. No one ever dies and the good guys always win. That all changed with this movie. While The Transformer: The movie did introduce a new set of characters, this movie never felt like a commercial. The characters all had depth and soul. Yes I am talking about giant transforming robots. This movie also introduced real gravity to the situation by introducing death of beloved characters into the equation. This was heavy stuff for a kid.

At this point I should probably provide a synopsis of the story. I could but I won’t. The plot is a little too complicated to summarize in just a few sentences. If you want to read a synopsis, I suggest going to this page on This is the key to what made the film so great. The story went much deeper than normal cartoon affair. You had near annihilation of the Autobot race, you had the unwilling the hated Megatron making a Faustian deal to save his own life, and you had the giant planet eating robot who was the main enemy yet how do you defeat what is essentially a force of nature?

Now I mentioned how serious this movie was. Yes there was some light hearted moments usually involving the Dinobots (who I still detest), but over all the tone of the film is way darker than anything that has preceded it and most that have followed. I knew that I was in for a ride when in the very beginning of the movie when Megatron and his minions hijack an Autobot ship and kill everyone on board. When one autobot that still has some life in him reaches out for Megatron’s leg and begs for mercy for his fellow Autobots, Megatron’s response still send shudders down my spine. He looks down at the fallen robot and says with a sneer “Such heroic nonsense” and then blast him at close range with his blaster. Are you kidding me? I had never witnessed anything so murderous in my life. And then they kill the one character that I never in a million years would have been killed: Optimus Prime. This would have been like killing John Wayne off in the first ten minutes of True Grit. I could see some of the minor characters getting knocked off, but you just don’t mess with Optimus Prime. Well they did. You watched the journey of Hot Rod as he leaves his childish ways and accepts his destiny as the chosen leader of the Autobots and the devastation as Utlra Magnus who wants to save his people but can’t because he is not the prophesied leader. You see Megatron make a deal with devil and how he chafes under the rule of someone else. These were serious story lines, much more serious than what we usually followed.

Much like how Big Trouble in Little China (another personal classic) tried to introduce main stream American audiences to the Hong Kong style of martial arts films, The Transformers: The Movie introduced main stream America to Japanese animation. This was better looking than any other American cartoon at the time. The care and work that went into the film is on display throughout. This aspect of it alone should make The Transformers: The Movie more than just a personal classic.

A movie just isn’t complete without a soundtrack that fits what’s going on in the movie. The Transformers: The Movie’s soundtrack is no exception. Nearly every song fits as if it was made for this film with the only real clunker being Weird Al’s “Dare To Be Stupid”. There isn’t a fan of this movie that doesn’t have the specific scenes play out in his head when he hears Stan Bush sing “You got the touch” or think that he could save the universe too as long as Stan keep on crooning “Dare to keep all your dreams alive!”.

In case you haven’t figured out I love this movie. And if you are pondering actually dusting off the only copy at the local video store and giving it a spin, consider this: It has a great story, great acting, great animation, and great animation, and for a cartoon 23 years old it still holds up. Plus there’s a cuss word in it, which made it feel so rebellious to us youngsters.

I recommend it not only for the nostalgia, but because it deserves a bigger audience and to take it’s proper place in the realm of sci-fi classics.