Friday, September 17, 2010

The More Things Change....

Welcome to the twilight zone. When I read stories such as Microsoft possibly borrowing to increase its dividend and stock buybacks, I see it as just another sign of the American economic system gone wild. There was once a day when companies borrowed money to finance expansion for the production of goods. Now we borrow to pay shareholders or make titanic bonuses to executives. Or we finance our deficit by borrowing from China to keep the American consumer, AKA Hamster on a Wheel, buying at the local official distributor of goods made in China (and other emerging countries), Wal-Mart. But even with interest rates at all time lows, we cannot create borrowing demand in housing, or small business so unemployment remains intolerably high.

In the past I’ve written about many of the pieces of the economic conundrum we’ve created for ourselves, the problem of job creation, the local government crisis, the underfunded pension guarantees, entitlements, banking bailouts, the inflation/deflation tug of war, and in general our consumption oriented society. In fact, while everyone feels a little better as we have thrown so much $$ at the economy to keep it afloat, repair some damage to everyone’s 401Ks, the really major challenges lie ahead, and in one of the more divisive political environments as the midterm elections loom. The more things change, the more they stay the same…. Alphonse Karr

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Slouching Towards Nostalgia

When I first began this blog, I really did not know where it would take me. I should have maintained an index as entries have floated like a dandelion in the winds of our time. They are idiosyncratic reactions to the macro and micro moments of my life, but true to my “mission statement” it has been focused on my primary interests, publishing, music, reading and writing, economics and business, photography, and boating. The presidential election occupied a fair amount of angst, not to mention the ongoing Great Recession, the disaster in the Gulf, and “circus occasions” such as the Madoff affair which led to a number of entries.

John Updike’s death was a great sadness to me, the passing of America’s greatest contemporary writer, but luckily, it appears that the baton has now been placed in the capable hands of Jonathan Franzen who has followed up his promising Corrections with Freedom, which has even been acclaimed as the latest “Great American novel.” I got my hands on one of the first copies from my friends at Amazon (a printed copy that is not a Kindle, which I continue to resist). I am so looking forward to reading it, that I am delaying the pleasure until we take a trip in a couple of weeks. Interestingly, taking a page from Updike’s Rabbit series, Franzen has neatly spaced his two novels a decade apart, giving us an opportunity to kaleidoscopically view the differences in our times. So Franzen, I am hoping, will be a worthy successor to a writer I have loved to read for the past fifty years, although he will never be as prolific as Updike, who could move gracefully in many genres, from the novel, to the essay, to the short story, to poetry.

While writing this blog over the past few years, I also “discovered” Raymond Carver, not that I had not read him before, but I immersed myself in his short stories with the publication of the Library of America’s complete collection and Carol Sklenicka's excellent biography, Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life. Many of his stories, such as Gazebo, continue to resonate in my consciousness, so perfectly constructed and moving. Carver always wanted to write a novel, but he was the master of the short story and was wise never to leave that field, including writing some very good poetry. Perhaps Franzen will follow suit, recognizing his territory as the novel, and one absolutely brilliant novel each decade would be more than enough by any standards.

I also renewed my passion for the theatre during this time, especially the productions of Dramaworks in West Palm Beach, and am looking forward to my preview seats for the forthcoming season so I can comment on the productions before traditional media intrudes.

But I started this blog with several entries of a personal nature, about my family and childhood, the good, the bad and the ugly and I see that several of my last entries hark back to more nostalgic feelings than was my original intent. This is a far cry from providing a ‘first hand” account of “our” times, and although family and reflecting on my life will always be a part of what makes me write, I’m taking a vacation from that for a while.

However, I can’t resist the temptation to recount one very recent personal experience, occurring on the night of Labor Day. We had taken our boat to our mooring off Crow Island which we have visited now for some thirty years. There we met friends, thinking we would stay for the day and return to our marina before sunset. Instead, we were easily persuaded to stay the night, enjoy a pot luck supper, including fresh dug steamed clams, and although my instincts told me that an exceptionally high tide might make it uncomfortable, I relied on the NOAA forecast of “relatively light winds” for assurance that we would not excessively rock at high tide as we slept. By dark the winds increased to some 20 knots pushing the water of the Long Island Sound over the bar that protects the anchorage. The End Result: all night we rocked, rolled, banged, bow and spring lines loudly snapping and tugging, things thrown off counters, to the point of virtually no sleep. By morning, with the tide subsiding and the wind backing down, we were greeted by this sunrise, a small consolation to a night from hell.
And a few minutes later…..