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The level of taste flaunted by America’s upper caste at the bubble’s height had less in common with the Medicis than, say, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

 That is perhaps the most delicious line from Frank Rich's pointed column today, entitled Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corners  But his snark is not as important as his insight.  He begins his piece like this:

"WHEREVER you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense," says the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town." Those words were first heard by New York audiences in February 1938, as America continued to reel from hard times.

  And Rich reminds us immediately that in 1938 our nation was reeling, the auto industry in dire straights, and FDR had the gall to do large scale public works to put people back to work.  Sound familiar?

"Our Town" carries a particular meaning for me.  Rich notes that due to its large cast and minimal scenary requirements it is the play most often done in schools.  So it was at Mamaroneck High School during my time there.  My part was small, Wally, the younger brother of the heroine.  I was on stage in all three acts, but with only one line, in the first act:  "Aw, Ma! By ten o’clock I got to know all about Canada!"  In the second act I was at the wedding.  And I was on stage for the entire third act.

As one of the dead in the cemetery.  That graveyard plays a role in in Rich's column.  Not the part where the Stage Manager, the organizing and narrating character of the play, mentions that I (Wally) died of a burst appendix on a camping trip.  No, read this:

At the director David Cromer’s shattering rendition of the play now running in Greenwich Village, it’s impossible not to be moved by that Act III passage where the Stage Manager comes upon the graves of Civil War veterans in the town cemetery. "New Hampshire boys," he says, "had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, though they’d never seen more than 50 miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends — the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died about it."

 In the sentence before that passage Rich opines

Once again its astringent distillation of life and death in the fictional early-20th-century town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., is desperately needed to help strip away "layers and layers of nonsense" so Americans can remember who we are — and how lost we got in the boom before our bust.

For those who might not know, Rich long served as the drama critic for the Ny Times, which may be why he chooses to use an emblematic American play to help us understand our current situation.  He tells us that Wilder was not nostalgic or sentimental, that Grover's Corner had ordinary people, not saints, a range, a mix.  

But when the narrator evokes a common national good and purpose — unfurling our country’s full name in the rhetorical manner also favored by our current president — you feel the graveyard’s chill wind. It’s a trace memory of an American faith we soiled and buried with all our own nonsense in the first decade of our new century.

Rich illustrates this with the recent letter Warren Buffett sent his shareholders, in which the Sage of Omaha described the recent performance of Berkshire Hathaway in terms derived from venereal disease - it is not whom you sleep with, but whom they slept with.  Rich furthers this metaphor by noting that our government is "rewarding the most promiscuous carrier of them all" in AIG, "precisely because it can’t be disentangled from all the careless (and unidentified) trading partners sharing its infection. "   Rich uses the losses suffered personally by Eli Wiesel and by his foundation trhough Bernie Madoff to illustrate how far we had lost moral compass.

There are many more illustrations in the piece. You can read them at your leisure.  I want to return to the cemetary.

In some ways I feel as if I am back in that third act.  In a sense I have died just as much did my character in that play.  Oh, it is not that I have lost a job or am yet in danger of losing my house, although our household finances are quite dire right now.  Rather, it is a product of my age.  I am the child of parents who lived through the Great Depression, my parents graduating from Cornell in 1932 and 1934.  I and too many of my generation seemed to have died to the lessons our parents learned about economic caution.  Our entire nation seems to have thought that - mirabile dictu - the economy would expand indefinitely, house and stock prices would continue to increase, the downside of the business cycle was repealed forever.  

During the third act Wally sits on stage, with the other deceased of Grover's Corners.  We sit in silent witness, almost as a nonspeaking Greek Chorus.  The world unfolds before us, with Emily's foolish attempt to go back to the past, only to learn that she cannot really relive it. We watched that.  And now?  I and others sit here and watch some attempting to go back to a past that never was, some ideal of Republican policy perhaps?  Do they not realize that the bubble and boom was never fully real, it was illusory, fueled by an insatiable greed that sucked all into a destructive whirlwind that dashed the hopes and dreams of millions of others.  Even in the supposed boom of the past administration most did not benefit, as the focus of our economics and our politics became ever further removed from the ordinary folks of this nation, those who lived perhaps not in a mythical Grover's Corner, but in far too many neighborhoods that were already being torn apart before the bubble burst.  They, too, found themselves sitting on the stage of our nation, without voice, only able offer witness through their silence and their unchanging countenances.  They were not heard, and most remained as unaware of their presence as they are of the spirits in the many graveyards, real and metaphorical, across this nation.  Some are towns and neighborhoods that have been destroyed economically, with stores and homes emptied and abandoned.  These too serve as silent and unmoving witnesses.

Rich writes that the remnants of the recent orgy of decadence and bad taste of the past decade are useful in that they remind us of how aberrant that time was, how unAmerican, how not normal.  And he concludes thus:

The true American faith endures in "Our Town." The key word in its title is the collective "our," just as "united" is the resonant note hit by the new president when saying the full name of the country. The notion that Americans must all rise and fall together is the ideal we still yearn to reclaim, and that a majority voted for in November. But how we get there from this economic graveyard is a challenge rapidly rivaling the one that faced Wilder’s audience in that dark late winter of 1938.

It was a challenge, especially for me, to sit on that stage silently for the entire third act.  I suppose when the play was first performed many in the audience paid as much attention to those of us who were dead as it did to the characters speaking and moving - after all, eventually Emily would sit down and join us.  And yes, it was a challenge for that audience, almost a decade into the Great Depression, to see a path other than what that graveyard might represent.  And yet, and yet . . .  somehow the spirit of the American people was never fully exhausted.  As it is not exhausted now, perhaps a year into our recession, with  a worldwide depression not an unrealistic possibility.  

Great drama, like great poetry or fiction, can take us beyond the limits of our own immediate existence.  Sometimes it can elevate us, at others it can challenge us.  We can find exhilaration or enervation.  It can take us out of ourselves or bring us back to our very roots.  I have watched the play "Our Town" differently since I appeared in it during my early teens.  Rich's use of it as a lens through which to view our current imbroglio reminds me that there is a part of me, and I suspect of many, that is torn by the play.  One part of me wants to be the Stage Manager, who narrates, who explains, because he understands.  Part of me wishes even for a moment, however painful, that like Emily Webb I could go back to some time in the past. And then I remember what that experience was like for her.  And then I wonder further -  is Wilder on to something, will we at some point not totally cease to be, but be like Wally and the others, seated and able to see and hear all, but not speak or act?

For too long, for much of the past decade, too many of us have been like I was during Act III.  We were like Wally, unseen and unable to make our voices heard by those acting around us. By choice, whether ours or those designated to act, we were mute, passive.

I acted in the play.  At the end I was able to get out of my seat on stage, take my bow for my minimal role, and get on with my normal life.

I think that Act III is now over.  It is time for all the Wallys, all the others in that graveyard on stage, to get up.  

I take a different lesson from Rich's column.  It is time for the ordinary, good and caring people of all the Grover's Corners to get up and be heard.   The play is over.  It is time for us to get back to living.


Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:00 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  mojo mug, and an explanation (60+ / 0-)

    Of course I think Rich is worth reading on his own.  But I wrote this because it connected with something in me, because of that long-ago participation in performing the play, and the image in formed in my mind.

    You may well react differently, either to Rich's column or to the play. If so, please feel free to share.  I am interested in what you have to offer.


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:02:41 PM PST

  •  One other note (21+ / 0-)

    It is unusual for me to be posting at this hour.  It is just as unusual for me to be awake now.  But the cats are frisky tonight, wanting and getting attention from me.  And when I read the Rich piece, I started writing.  When I finished it was but a dozen minutes before Midnight my time, so I thought I would put this up now.

    Perhaps few will see it.  Perhaps fewer will be interested. No matter.  In writing it I sorted through some of my own reactions.  And if anyone finds it of value, or if it draws one more person to reading the Rich column, then it was time and effort well spent.


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:05:54 PM PST

    •  I am reminded of the movie (0+ / 0-)

      I don't remember the year it was made.  It is true to the play until the end, where it has Emily (after the whole third act) recover.  The question then of course is whether she will remember what near-death taught her.

      I was bewildered and angry at that change - how typical of Hollywood at the time, to make a happy ending!  But I wonder if that is where we are now, and if it is, whether we will remember anything about all this.

      Thanks for the diary.

      If not me, who? If not now, when?

      by ramara on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:57:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  u r welcome - thanks for reading (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I remember a similar change at the end of the movie of Brothers Karamazov,starring Yul Brynner.  I don't know why Hollywood moguls thought they could do that to classics such as these

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 01:06:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I read Rich's column a while ago and (9+ / 0-)

    I just knew someone here would post about it.  "Our Town" is one of my favorite plays, and the good heliotrope smelling people there are some of my favorite people.  What a great column he wrote and what a great diary on it you wrote.  Thanks.

    "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

    by maggiejean on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:08:59 PM PST

    •  thanks for your kind words (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Othniel, GreyHawk, Empower Ink, maggiejean

      when I looked, I was surprised no one had yet written on it.  Then I decided, what the heck - I had a personal perspective to offer, and the cats weren't letting me go to sleep, so I would go ahead, write something, and post it.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:16:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How many cats do you have? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

        by maggiejean on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:22:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  five - all rescues (5+ / 0-)

          LionEl Tiger, the oldest, was thrown out of a car in a pillow case at the feet of someone walking a dog. She took it to her vet, who is our vet, and he immediately thought of us, because at the time we had two very elderly cats.  He was a kitten, and is now I think 8 or 9.  Then we went to an adoption fair intending to come home with one and came home with three, Elsa, and the sisters, Angelica and Felicity.  Finally, my wife kept encountering a cat living in a gas station near the NC border where she regularly stopped for gas on her way south to libraries in the Tarheel state.  So she adopted Cielito, who was just lying on my arm and purring.

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:29:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for your thought provoking interpretation, (10+ / 0-)


    It appears we are headed for much tougher times than many have expected so far.  And they may last far longer than we've hoped, up to now.

    Frank Rich's article, and your interpretation helps bring it home, a little, out of all the abstract plots, and banking stories.

    We are all going to have to make substantial adjustments to the way we've lived, how we expect to live, how we define success, and how we pull together to get through these upcoming challenges.

    Our cat Kashbal has gone beyond frisky, to totally out of control.  He like to charge into rooms as if he going to surprise rabbits or mice, but then he seems shocked at his brashness, flexes his ears back, looks about in a startled fashion,  and then flees to another room, in apparrent terror just as fast.

    After waiting a while he does it again, all day long over and over.  I've discovered if I make really soft scratching noises with my fingernails against the sheets, it encourages him to do it more, as apparrently thinks he's on a wild hunt for prey.

    I'm not exactly sure what he's thinking, but I find it humorously comforting in some inexplicable way, that he is totally unconcerned about the financial news and apparently intends to keep up his strange lifestyle regardless of newspaper headlines.


    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:16:08 PM PST

  •  All this clutching after wealth (18+ / 0-)

    has caused much misery.

    I hold to a Buddhist mindset that much of our suffering is self inflicted by our clinging and grasping.
    How much frenzied consumption? How many houses, jewels, designer wardrobes and expensive cars do we need to deeply contemplate the beauty of a full moon?

    The coming depression may strip many things from me, but the fundamental joy of living fully within each moment is beyond the grasp of crooked bankers.

    •  have been thinking about that - (9+ / 0-)

      most of our expenditures have been on books and music.  But we have our fair share of other items.  As I was cleaning and organizing the kitchen and the basement today I realized how much.  I went downstairs to unplug and take apart the old extra refrigerator because we really cannot justify the electricity for the little we put in it - there are only two of us and the 5 cats.  I began to realize how much additional stuff we had accumulated, some of which costs us in electrical use.  We each have a cell phone, and we have 5 phones in the house, four of which are portables with their cradles.  I still have two desktop computers as well as the laptop on which I type this -  one is connected to an old laser printer, but I do not need to have it - or the printer - on all the time.  And both of us still have clothes from sizes we are unlikely to shrink back to.  

      Too much complication.  I spent today relatively quietly, with music, with the cats, with doing ordinary household things.  And I kept remembering how I really wanted to simplify my life.  

      Things.  Stuff.  Position.  Power. Too much.  Perhaps as our own financial situation has become strained we will finally move in the direction of simplification about which we have pondered for several years.

      Thanks for your comment.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:25:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  time sickness in our schools (9+ / 0-)

        I am a retired teacher, but now when I do go into a school building, it is clear to me how teachers are frequently hurried, anxious, and multitasking (often several places at once). The emotional climate in most schools feels time-crazy and stressful.  There is a point where frantic efficiency in communicating with children becomes inefficient.  Simplicity in time brings forth experiential richness and allows for powerful and meaningful communication.  

    •  I will add that to my list of what we have. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fran1, Othniel, crystal eyes, elwior, chrome327

      They can't take our freedom.

      They can't take our knowledge.

      They can't take our joy of living.

    •  The crooked bankers are money addicts. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      crystal eyes, ShempLugosi

      Cashaholics might be a good term. It is a soul-sickness, the acceptance of which has been doing grave harm to this Nation.

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 01:39:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, not for a while... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      crystal eyes

      We have created a couple of generations of children who feel they are completely entitled to the "stuff" they have and can get.  As a school teacher I witnessed many battles royal about removing cell phones from kids' grasps.  Their adjustment will be terrible in that they don't even have their own purposeful music to latch onto.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:24:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ah, students and cellphones & mp3 players (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        crystal eyes, dolfin66

        a constant battle is it not?

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:31:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          crystal eyes

          I once played Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" to a class of kids in 2001.  They thought it was incredibly good.  They asked me who that was and I told them it was the guy whose album won all the Grammies this year.  "Oh. And who was that?", they asked.  When I told them, they were shocked.  I told them that I'd been listening to this stuff for 30 years.  Then I asked them if they expected to be listening to the Beastie Boys 30 years from now.

          The "battle", as I see it, is not so much with the gadgets, though there should be more limited use.  My beef is with the degradation of music and language that is communicated over those devices.  I can't be a hypocrite and put down their stuff because I was one of the original rockers and rebels, but MAN...  The language!  The violence!  The mysogeny!  Yikes!  That's what freaks me out.  

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:48:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Rich's astute analysis of theater prepared him (14+ / 0-)

    well to analyze the drama, comedy, absurdity and stagecraft of modern American politics.

    All the world truly is a stage, as you-know-who once said.

    Nice diary, teacherken.

    Sweet are the uses of adversity...Find tongues in the trees, books in the brooks, and good in everything. -Shakespeare, As You Like It.

    by earicicle on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:23:22 PM PST

  •  Teacherken...I haven't commented in your (7+ / 0-)

    diaries recently but this one really hit a nerve. I feel like I'm in the middle of the last days of the Roman Empire with the orgies of self-indulgence by the privileged few exposed for all to see.
    I am so disgusted by so many of my fellow human beings and yet I still try desperately to cling to hope.
    At this point it is all that I have. Well, that and a beautiful wife and daughter to take care of.
    Enough whining...back to my job search.
    Peace to you ;-)>

    "We're right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!"-Hunter S. Thompson ;-)>

    by rogerdaddy on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:25:54 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the memories... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Othniel, Empower Ink, elwior

    In college, I had a line to shout out from the back of the theatre's balcony to the Stage Manager. I did it as I worked the spot light used to highlight him. If only I could remember what that line was. I was much more concerned with keeping that damned light focused than on my acting!

    I know the special interests and lobbyists are gearing up for a fight as we speak.
    My message to them is this: So am I -- President Barack Obama

    by Jimdotz on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:29:17 PM PST

  •  Actually By 1938 the Repub's Convinced FDR to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    be responsible and balance budgets. So we were back into depression by then.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:31:49 PM PST

    •  true, but we were never fully out before then (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      absolutely, we went back in deeper. And thus '38 was a particularly bad year.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:36:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Was Emily in Our Town (7+ / 0-)

    I was 15, and it changed my life then. Many times during the intervening forty+ years, I've returned to Grover's Corners to contemplate its wisdom.

    Frank Rich is an insightful critic. I'm grateful that he wrote about Our Town, and its continuing legacy.

    Thank you for this diary, Ken.  You were a very good younger brother.

  •  You had me at the opening quote (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Othniel, maggiejean

    I'm laughing, but it isn't funny.

    How on earth did we get here?

    Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please: Marx

    by TNThorpe on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:49:50 PM PST

    •  First you get mad, then you get numb (5+ / 0-)

      then you laugh.

      For some reason I have reached the point where I have started seeing the humour and laughing.  I am a serious person. too.

      It is almost like your worst fears have been realized, so you don't have to worry about it anymore.

      Watch the republican leaders preen and point the finger at Obama and the Democrats. That is funny.

      It seems like no time since Bush said, "The economy is fundamentally sound."

  •  Beautiful TK. I taught and directed the play (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Othniel, elwior, maggiejean

    years ago in HS. I was always heartened by the students' transformation during the discussions and rehearsals. Many initially thought, given its title, it was this old ditty celebrating Mayberry RFD, but soon discovered its real heart. When football players cry ... well. Great analysis.  

    To change ideas about what land is for is to change ideas about what anything is for. - Aldo Leopold

    by Mother Mags on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 09:53:23 PM PST

  •  Well said (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Othniel, relentless, elwior

    The notion that Americans must all rise and fall together is the ideal we still yearn to reclaim, and that a majority voted for in November.


    It is time for the ordinary, good and caring people of all the Grovers Corners to get up and be heard.   The play is over.  It is time for us to get back to living.

    The meme that we all rise and fall together is essential. The fact there are different opinions about reaching the goal makes it interesting. A wise friend of mine once said "Out of the clash of differing opinions, the spark of truth arises."

    Speaking one's truth is important. Listening and hearing one another is equally important. I am grateful Our Town has this President at this time ~ and we have each other here in this corner of the universe.

    "Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility." Obama 2/09

    by Anne933 on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 10:04:45 PM PST

  •  Creating wealth without creating anything of (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, wader, danmac, elwior, ShempLugosi

    value is perhaps the ultimate layer of nonsense. That's what has been done at a feverish pace for most of the past decade without regard to the fallout. The credit swap derivative market was estimated to be at one trillion dollars in 2001 and is now estimated at 62 trillion dollars. It is about to surpass, if it has not already, the GDP of the entire global economy. The reckless pursuit of wealth has placed the lives and livelihood of every person on this planet in jeopardy. It is hard to fathom what motivates a person to engage in behavior that is so alien to the idea of promoting the general welfare, to forming a more perfect union, to establishing justice. These are the ideals upon which America was founded, ideals based upon the beliefs that we are all equal and that we are all in this together. We have somehow allowed a small segment of our society to redefine us. We have allowed this group to make us capitalists first and Americans last. We have allowed them to define greed as good and anything that impedes greed, or the free market as they call it, as bad. This is more than just nonsensical. It is pathological. The problem is that we the people are no longer in control. The yearning for an America that rises and falls together is a quaint sentimentality that the power brokers and the creators of this economic disaster dismissed long ago. They must rise and the great majority must fall. They will never be a part of the majority that believe that we must look out for one another. That idea is too close to socialism.  

    •  That is why they have brainwashed so many people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to believe socialism is bad.  What is so incredibly amusing is they do not even realize that the basis of the religion that they cling to so tensiously is completely based on socialism.  Christ's sent the holy spirit to the apostles at Pentecost and they were instructed that "No one said any of the things they possessed were their own, but they had all things in common".  Next time a conservative friend expresses outrage at America becoming a socialist country just look at them and say, "as Christ instructed".  It will make their head's explode.

  •  Ah, seeing the title I thought the reference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    might possibly relate to this:

    This has a similar (partial) relevance to the article and diary, that being the effects of past policies and the current bust upon so many of "our towns" across the nation.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 11:07:10 PM PST

  •  "What should really terrify the White House (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, elwior, sjbob

    is that Cramer last month gave a big thumbs-up to Timothy Geithner’s bank-rescue plan."

    That was my favorite line.

    "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

    by bigchin on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 11:55:58 PM PST

    •  Except... Except... ! (0+ / 0-)

      Except those words were spoken by Cramer on the Cramer show... a show composed of nothing but two giant noise makers, ... the noise making machine whose buttons he presses from time to time, ... and the noise maker himself!

  •  I remember holding an umbrella (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, elwior

    in the graveyard as a high school freshman so many years ago.

    But the reason for this comment is to thank you for that opening quote.  Priceless.

    Now if I could just remember who referred to recent presidents as George Herbert Walker Bush and George Herbert Hoover Bush.

    Our long national nightmare is over.

    by Endangered Alaskan Dem on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 12:58:00 AM PST

  •  I was supposed to play Howie the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Sandy on Signal

    Milkman in Our Town in 7th grade.

    But I got hit by a car on the way to the show.

    I was saved by my hair - I've got afro-like hair, and, at the time, it was very long.  My doctor told me it saved my life.

  •  never saw the stage play (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And vaguely recall reading Our Town in grammar school. But the themes are very familiar. How prophetic Wilder was, or maybe he knew that some things just don't change.

    Maybe with this latest economic collapse, we will remember and do better.

    Thank you for recounting your on-stage experience. This is a lesson for us all.

    Great job!

    -7.38, -5.23 I survived the Purple Tunnel of Doom, no thanks to DiFi. I will remember this, though. Ugh!

    by CocoaLove on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 03:36:17 AM PDT

  •  What about the initial boxed quote? (0+ / 0-)

    OK,  I should go read the column, but in what ways are the upper  caste more like Husseins than Medici?

    I think the best analogy would be neither of those, but rather the robber barons of the early 20th century, since the connections among the upper caste are formed more by corporate relationships than familial ones.

  •  Our Town... one of my favorites of all time. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Sandy on Signal

    Wilder had genious at distilling the human spirit and condition in few words, as have and do all great playwrights.  They do not have the luxury of novelists (also great distillers), having to express so much in so few words and so short a time.

    Everyone who enjoys live theater (or even the scripts of plays) has favorites, of course.  Wilder is among mine, as is Ibsen, Shaw, O'Neil, and a few others.  They bring truth before us with varying degrees of subtlety, and the truely great works have a timeless quality.  

    I often read plays just as others read novels (which I also read) because of their sharp and crisp exposition of the underlying themes.  And invariably find on reflection that there is food for thought that far exceeds first impressions.

    Of course, Rich is a very insightful person, IMO... able to see associations and parallels that would escape clods like me.  You, Ken, added insights to Rich's own.  An excellent diary.  Thank you:),

    Life is not a 'dress rehearsal'!

    by wgard on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 04:47:42 AM PDT

  •  Our Town (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Sandy on Signal, guyeda

    "I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we didn't notice. Take me back - up the hill - to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look.
    Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners...Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths... and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

    Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? --every every minute?"

    I was Emily once.

    Thanks for the memories teacherken and Frank Frich.

    •  the sacrament of the present moment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandy on Signal

      how rarely we ever are fully in the present.  We look back at the past, perhaps especially now, and wonder "what if?"   Or we anticipate the future, either as a better place to which we look forward, or as some kind of impending doom that robs us of any joy in the "now."

      OF course we can neither be historically ignorant nor blind to the possibilities that lay before us, positive or negative.  But how about we savor and learn from the present?


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 05:51:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You captured my thoughts/emotions..thank you.eom (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Sandy on Signal
  •  The first few years of this new century reminds (0+ / 0-)

    me of another classic,The Great Gatsby-its been all about greed and self-indulgence

  •  so what is the light at the end of the dock? n/t (0+ / 0-)

    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 06:38:35 AM PDT

  •  Teacher Ken-a big fan of yours (0+ / 0-)

    first reply from you - made my day!!!

    •  sorry I did not properly place it in response (0+ / 0-)

      I have this (un)fortunate habit of not only reading all comments on my diary, but responding to many of them, especially those made directly to me.

      Thanks for your kind words.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 07:25:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But what about the kids... (0+ / 0-)

    who have been raised as entitled consumers of...everything?  How will they respond to not being able to have what they want when they want it?

    My father worked WPA in Cleveland during the depression.  His message to me was, "We want you to have it better than we did."  And, I did have it better.  I was the first member of our family to graduate from college among other firsts.  Now, however, we are in perhaps the 5th generation of kids who heard those magic words about having it better than their parents.  It seems to me that we have run out of "better" for now.  How will the parents fulfill their promise?  How will the kids react to being deprived of their entitled success?

    Do you see/hear any of this in your classes?

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:29:32 AM PDT

    •  interesting mix of kids (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      first, i m of age of many grandparents, so their parents re children from my contemporaries.  i suppose that influences.  I hear alo of economic worries.  Some of my kids re in stressed situations now, byt given how many parents have employment that flows fr fed, not as bad as elsewhere in country.

      sorry 4 typos,have  cat sound asleep on one shulder and can only use one hand

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:35:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My cats... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        won't even let me get near the keyboard.  I have to wait until they're asleep.  Who trained who?  We have 2 large, wonderful Maine Coon cats.  If you ever have the chance to get one, do.  They have the best disposition of any cat I've ever known or had around.

        I'm glad your kids are adjusting.  I'm 67, so I was in the same place with my HS kids.  I liked your diary that suggested that layers of decay will be peeled away by this depression.  Call it what you want, but a rose by any other name...

        About 20 years ago, during a recession, in a discussion about our economic situation I opined that we couldn't possibly have a repeat of the 30s because our economy and industry was so much more diverse than then.  But now that we've shipped all those jobs overseas, we will struggle mightily to work our way out of this disaster, don't you think?

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:42:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  now 2 cats n me nd one nex t0 my leg (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      i cannot move    bit i am arm and vibrating fr their purrs.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Mar 08, 2009 at 08:41:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! (0+ / 0-)

    This was an incredible article.  It takes a former theater critic to sort out the buffoonery of our culture.  Why does anyone even listen to CNBC?  These are the very same people who pumped and dumped stocks in the DOT COM bust.  Did they all of a sudden become credible?  Turn off CNBC, turn off FAUX news, in fact turn off the MSM who are just poisoning minds.

  •  Kudos also to Jon Stewart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, fflambeau

    His humorous commentary puts the inane thuggery of these wall street barkers into perspective.

    I love this line from Jon Stewart:

    Last week Jon Stewart whipped up a well-earned frenzy with an eight-minute "Daily Show" takedown of the stars of CNBC, the business network that venerated our financial gods, plugged their stocks and hyped the bubble’s reckless delusions. (Just as it had in the dot-com bubble.) Stewart’s horrifying clip reel featured Jim Cramer reassuring viewers that Bear Stearns was "not in trouble" just six days before its March 2008 collapse; Charlie Gasparino lip-syncing A.I.G.’s claim that its subprime losses were "very manageable" in December 2007; and Larry Kudlow declaring last April that "the worst of this subprime business is over." The coup de grâce was a CNBC interviewer fawning over the lordly Robert Allen Stanford. Stewart spoke for many when he concluded, "Between the two of them I can’t decide which one of those guys I’d rather see in jail."

    I am with you Jon, I can't decide which of them should be in jail.  I think probably both of them.

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