Thursday, August 11, 2011

My version of an island vacation

So, I’m re-reading The Tempest in preparation for the run that will be going on at the Performing Arts Center. I’m that dedicated as an usher. Or that big of a GEEK. Tomato, tomahto. Either way, it’s not that onerous. I’m that peculiar variety of geek that actually has fun looking at footnotes. “What the hell is “glistering”? Ah. Interesting.”

The Tempest is really a great example of why Shakespeare has lasted so long. There are so many ways that the story can be looked at that it can seem eerily appropriate to your time (no matter what that time might be). Where 50 years ago, The Tempest was seen as a story about the evils of colonialism and enslavement by The Man, today it could really ring true as a story of a dysfunctional family. Single dad (Prospero) loses his job (the dukedom) and has to move his daughter (Miranda) into a shelter (the island), where there’s a weird goth kid (Ariel) and a wild kid (Caliban). Another victim of downsizing.

There’s also the political element. Anyone who thinks that Hollywood invented getting all up in a politician's business has never seen King Lear (or Oedipus Rex for the matter). James Cameron’s got nothing on old Bill Shakes. Shakespeare is almost always making a point that when government is in chaos everyone suffers. Gee, why does that sound familiar? Kings who let their egos guide them rather than their conscience get into big trouble in Shakespeareland. You have to wonder if we might not be in the mess we are now if Congress had a summer reading list that included Macbeth, Les Miserables, Lysistrata and The Inferno.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blue skies smiling at me

Here’s why I refuse to worry about the debt thing or the downgrade thing or any of the economy things – I refuse to worry about things that I have no control over.

Oh, but you say, “You have a voice in out democracy and you can vote your power and our government will rein things in and get this runaway pony back under control.” No, you don’t say that. You don’t believe that. Nobody believes that.

Because it used to be that if you were a fraidy cat you’d put your money in the bank and it would be there for your old age, quietly enjoying the magic of compound interest. Or if you could afford it you’d buy blue chip stocks and be able to outpace inflation by a bit and have a little cushier retirement. Then people decided that everyone needed to be in higher risk stocks – no guts, no glory. You’re smarter than the market and there are no losers on Wall Street. Then we decided that you can’t go fast if you use the brakes, in fact why do we need brakes in the first place? No brakes. Go, baby, go! And it was a stock market free-for-all – money flying everywhere and we’re all gonna get rich or die trying.

At the same time, companies became convinced that private ownership could not work. IPO is the way to go. Try and find a company that is responsible only to a small group of owners out there. Not many of them. They’re all publicly-owned. Faceless, nameless stockholders and investment groups who can’t walk up to the president of the company and say, “What they hell are you doing?” And stockholders who don’t care if the company is going to be there in 10 years, because they’ll have sold their stock by then. Dividends? What’s that? It’s all about what-did-you-buy-for and what-did-you-sell-for.

So, it all is dependent on Wall Street traders. And we all know what a bunch of level-headed, altruistic, far-thinking bunch they are. No worries letting them play a game of poker in which the pot is your 401k.

Basically we’ve created an economy in which our fiscal fates are at the mercy of the most venal, cowardly highway robbers in our society. Good plan.

I’m putting my money in a sock and hiding it in an old bust of Shakespeare that I bought at the flea market. I still have no idea what those dollars are actually worth. But I have some! And that I have control over. The rest of it? Not my worry. My problem. But not my worry.

TIME: Quotes of the Day