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Silent of the Week: Martin Scorsese

Silent of the Week: Martin Scorsese

As a Gen-X film idolater, my two favorite genres of film are science fiction and crime drama. The latter in particular is something like a hallowed tradition in the field – just think of how many of the great classics are crime movies. It might have something to do with the film industry’s strong ties to the United States of America, a country which has long glorified crime and violence.

So for this week’s Silent in the spotlight, I choose Martin Scorsese (b. 1942), who has directed some of the greatest crime movies that ever entertained my generation. He’s been at it since the 1970s and is still going strong, and I’m just going to focus in this post on his film directing career. You can tell how much he has influenced people my age by this homage, by avant-garde rock band King Missile, to Scorsese and all of his excellent films:

And this is just up until 1993, before Casino! There’s been so much since then, including his contribution to the genre of good Nick Cage movies (Bringing Out the Dead) and his huge list of collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio, which started with Gangs of New York, then continued with The Aviator and his award-winning masterpiece, The Departed.

But wait, that’s just his films from before the Great Financial Crisis! Since then, he has directed all of these excellent films: Shutter Island, Hugo (proving that it’s not all crime and violence with this guy), The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence.

You might think it couldn’t get any better, but now he’s coming out with what might be the perfect crime movie. Showing that his generation is always keeping up with the latest trends, he is teaming up with streaming giant Netflix to produce The Irishman. It features a cast of cream of the crop crime movie actors, and covers one of the most well-known stories in the history of the mafia – the disappearance of teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. It’s like the 1970s will never die – certainly not as long as the Silent Generation is still around.

Silents of the Week: the Cast of Grace and Frankie

Silents of the Week: the Cast of Grace and Frankie

Undoubtedly, the Silent Generation has made a huge impact in the field of arts and entertainment. Their careers go back to the Golden Age of film and to the dawn of the TV era. For my generation, which was weaned on television, they were the young actors of the sit coms and dramas to which we were first addicted as children.

So it is amazing to me today, after we have evolved past the convergence of TV and the Internet and into the streaming era, that their generation still has its own television show. That’s right, I’m talking about Grace and Frankie on Netflix. Every one of the four actors in the roles of the two comically disordered couples is from the Silent Generation: that would be Martin Sheen (b. 1940), Sam Waterston (b. 1940), Lily Tomlin (b. 1939), and Jane Fonda (b. 1937).

Now, it’s true that the show is produced by Boomers and the lead characters are probably meant to be parodies of Boomers, but the Silent personality still comes out. The characters are neurotic and confused, the tone warm and humane. The show is about elders opening up, pushing boundaries, and staying hip with the latest social trends and language – in the 2010s!

Grace and Frankie is the swan song of a generation that has managed to keep itself relevant through over half a century of social change. It is a reminder of the long-reaching effects of the transformative time of their youth – embodied in part in the family dynamic with the main characters’ quirky Gen-X adult children. The plot may be contrived, the writing clich√©d and predictable, but the show is always fun.

We’re in the middle of the fifth season and we like the show almost as much as these guys do:

Silents of the Week: Congressional Leadership

Silents of the Week: Congressional Leadership

Last month I introduced a new post format celebrating a member or group of members of the Silent Generation who are still making an impact on the world today. I’ve also posted in the past about how that generation is still powerful in our society, even though they are deep into elderhood. Perhaps this is a consequence of greater average longevity, or perhaps it is just a pattern of history that repeats sometimes. With the wielding of power in mind, the subject of this week’s post will be the Silents in the United States Congress.

The Silent generation currently comprises 9% of the Senate, and 4.6% of the House. Reflecting the partisan makeup of the two chambers, they are mostly Republican in the Senate, and mostly Democratic in the House. Their number includes the two Congressional leaders – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (b. 1942) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (b. 1940). The latter is the highest ranking elected woman in United States history, highlighting her generation’s connection with the feminist movement and with the advancement of women in American life. Other prominent names among them are Diane Feinstein (b. 1933), Maxine Waters (b. 1938) and Bernie Sanders (b. 1941) – with Sanders being possibly the Democratic party’s best hope of winning the Presidency in 2020.

It’s interesting how the three most dominant Congressional Silents are stand-ins for the factions that exist in such unyielding tension in U.S. politics today. Sanders is the great hope of the Progressives, who want to reshape the American system, tilting it back in favor of the struggling 99 percent. Understandably, he tends to be popular with the younger cohorts. Pelosi represents the old guard Neoliberals, who think the current system is sustainable, maybe with some tweaking, but let’s not rock the boat and ruin our 401Ks. McConnell meanwhile is the obstructionist enabler of the Nationalists, who are selling protectionism and fossil fuel extraction, and trying to turn the country into a wealthy Third World dictatorship.

The thing is, the Silent generation always plays by the rules, and as long as they are at the top the tension among the factions will remain fundamentally unresolved. When they are finally gone is when the rules will really reset, change will accelerate, and it might get pretty scary. There’s no way to avoid this reckoning, but since the change may not be in the direction you want, it might be good to enjoy this generation while we still have them.

Joe Biden for President!

Book Review: Stoned Apocalypse

Book Review: Stoned Apocalypse

I walked into a weird little store in Cleveland a few weeks ago, and saw this book. I think I was drawn to it because of all the apocalypse culture in my life lately, so I bought the book. It turns out to be an autobiographical account of two years in the life of the author in the late 1960s. The author, Marco Vassi, is Silent Generation (b. 1937) and what he did in those two years is leave New York City for the West Coast, mainly San Francisco and environs, where he was caught up in the student revolution and hippie life in general.

The book beautifully captures the spirit of an Awakening social era. The author is searching for a new way of life, seeking to defy social conventions and live spontaneously in the moment. He wanders from scene to scene, never staying with one particular group of people in one particular place for very long. All the familiar baggage of the 60s is there in the account – drugs, orgiastic sex, weird cults and communes – even the Grateful Dead. Vassi writes well, and is clearly very intelligent and well educated, describing his wild and decadent experiences with literary flair.

It is astonishing to read this book, describing real life events (we must assume) from fifty years ago, in light of the current hashtag era. It really highlights how much our society and its priorities have changed. No one today would admit to the things that Vassi does so explicitly, or even approach living with the same questioning, wandering spirit. The author’s career and reputation could not possibly survive the me too movement, but he is off the hook on that, having died from AIDS in the late 1980s. If you read the book, you’ll understand how that could have happened.

In the end, Vassi abandons his search and returns to New York and the life of a publisher. Whether in an individual or a society, there is only so long that the Awakening spirit can be maintained before sober matters of reality take over. Not that he led a particularly sober life afterwards, as you can tell from his page on Wikipedia. But I enjoyed this book as direct evidence of what life during the Consciousness Revolution was like – at least for the young adult generation.

Here’s a link to the book on Good Reads in case you feel inclined to try to find a copy – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1146089.The_Stoned_Apocalypse

Introducing: Silent of the Week Posts

Introducing: Silent of the Week Posts

I’ve posted earlier about the Silent Generation (b. 1925-1942) and how they are still an influence in our society. They are the eldest of the current generations, and I thought I would pay tribute to them in a new kind of post, focusing on one or a few living members of their generation at a time. I’ll call them “Silent of the Week” posts, with no claim that I will actually publish one weekly.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing on July 20, 1969, the first Silents to be featured are the crew of the Apollo missions. Those missions were the culmination of the American High, led by the energy and ambition of the Greatest Generation, then in power. But the tough and dangerous work was done by the young adult Silent Generation, the test pilots with the “right stuff.”

Here is a photo taken for the 50th anniversary of 8 living Apollo astronauts. All would have been in their thirties at the time of the missions Рat a peak age of youth and experience. They are Charlie Duke (b. 1935), Buzz Aldrin (b. 1930), Walter Cunningham (b. 1932), Al Worden (b. 1932), Rusty Schweickart (b. 1935), Harrison Schmitt (b. 1935), Michael Collins (b. 1930) and Fred Haise (b. 1933).

Now octogenarians, these men have a simple role in American society today – as revered icons of a glorious past. They make sporadic appearances in the pop culture, more so in the past week because of the anniversary. For example, Michael Collins narrated a recent Google doodle animation about the Apollo 11 mission. But for the most part, they are resting on their laurels – and who from a younger generation can match them in the daring of their accomplishment?

These men really were from a different age, and just to remind us of the generation gap, here’s a viral video you may have seen already. It shows Buzz Aldrin encountering an obnoxious conspiracy nut, and giving him a taste of old fashioned values.

The Silent Generation: Still in Power

The Silent Generation: Still in Power

I’ve posted a couple of times lately about the Homelanders, the current child generation. I am going to jump way up the age ladder now, and take a look at a generation that is well into elderhood, but still influential in our society. I am talking about the Silent Generation – the generation that was born between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

There is actually some awareness of their existence, so you may have encountered references to them before. Just think about it like this – the Greatest Generation fought World War II – they were young adults by then. The Baby Boom came after that – they were the kids born after the war. Well, someone had to be kids during World War II, right? That’s the Silent Generation.

Before I go further, let me present the birth years that I am using for each generation, based on the theory which I study.

  • Silent Generation: 1925-1942
  • Boomer Generation: 1943-1960
  • Generation X: 1961-1981
  • Millennial Generation: 1982-2004
  • Homeland Generation: 2005-202?

Based on these birth years, members of the Silent Generation today are between the ages of 76 and 94. And there are still people in that age bracket who are powerful in society. Two notable examples are Mitch McConnell (b. 1942) and Nancy Pelosi (b. 1940) in the U.S. Congress. Arguably, through their leadership of their respective parties, they are sustaining the pattern of partisanship and deadlock that began with the Gingrich revolution 25 years ago.

What’s truly amazing about the Silent Generation in politics is that the top two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2020 are from their generation. That would be Joe Biden (b 1942) and Bernie Sanders (b. 1941). At least they represent different wings of their party. And considering that this generation has never had a President, it would be an historic event indeed if either of the two men were to be nominated and then win the general election.

Another group of powerful Silents are the billionaire investors, sometimes associated with the corruption of politics and conspiracy theories about dark money controlling the government. Depending on the conspiracy theory, they may serve either major political party, or perhaps just use them both as pawns. The most infamous examples would be George Soros (b. 1930) and Charles (b. 1935) and David Koch (b. 1940).

Two notable Silent billionaire investors are in the list of top ten wealthiest people on the planet – Warren Buffett (b. 1930) and Michael Bloomberg (b. 1942). I’ve named the most prominent wealthy businessmen of this generation, but many others still enjoy positions of power – if not name recognition – as C-level executives or corporate board members.

The presence of the Silent Generation in the top echelons of government and business could be part of the reason for the sense of long drawn-out and unresolved crisis in our society. In many ways we are still living in the regime of their generation. Special interests control the legislature, government action is stalled, true reform is impossible, and inequality gets worse as the country continues to slide in global standings.

This is the way things have been going for decades. But it actually hasn’t been bad – for the Silent Generation. The inequality in our country is in part generational. So we could hardly expect that generation to be the ones to instigate reform, when they are benefiting from the status quo. All of this takes on special meaning in light of the Democratic primaries with its large number of contenders spanning a vast age range.

I don’t mean to be resentful of the Silent Generation, just to make a point about generationally-driven social change. In a future post I’ll write about the Silent Generation in film and entertainment, where they are also still making waves.

Silent Joe

Silent Joe

I just wanted to weigh in with some thoughts on the news stories surrounding erstwhile and possible future Presidential candidate Joe Biden. Biden was born in 1942, which according to Strauss & Howe generations theory puts him in the last birth year of the Silent Generation. This generation was actually first recognized and named in the early post-war era, in an essay in Time magazine.

The Silent Generation were too young to fight in World War II, and came of age after peace and prosperity had been secured. With all the battles won, and the social order locked down, they became careful conformists, with an easy future laid out before them. They developed a reputation for technical expertise, for nuance and respect for process, and for a sense of fairness and compassion.

These are the very qualities which are getting Biden into trouble today. On the political side, he’s been accused of helping Republicans, voting with them or endorsing them. In positive terms, his behavior might be called “reaching across the aisle” – after all, isn’t working with the opposition party one of a politician’s duties? Well, maybe not so much in an age of hyper-partisanship, where there is no room for compromise.

The other problem the world has with Joe Biden is that he is physically affectionate with people. This has exposed him to the “me too” outrage movement on social media. Biden is a sensitive guy – so much so that he released a video apologizing for being insensitive to the new social mores surrounding the expression of sensitivity. You could say he was being meta-sensitive, or perhaps simply that he has the misfortune of being empathic in an age that has rejected empathy.

This is not to say that Joe Biden couldn’t be a competent President. I mean, just look at how low the bar has been set. But unfortunately for Biden, he is not a man for the times. The personal qualities which served Biden well in his long career and not what the electorate is currently seeking in a Presidential candidate, and should he make a bid for the Democratic nomination, Biden will have a tough time competing in an already crowded field. In fact, his cohort Bernie Sanders (b. 1941) stands a better chance, precisely because he goes against the grain of his generation, with his radical ideas and firebrand attitude.