a thurber carnival: happy days are here again

The black, memorable year of 1929. Its 2011, three years since the great recession and the economic needle won’t budge.Employment is worse. And the housing crisis and foreclosures show little improvement. Are we in a socialized version of the dirty 30′s? Wak leadership, appeasement, and an election which is yawning us into the comfortable myth of a better, more communal America; a better world. Like Coca Cola the good times are within an arm’s reach of desire. Happy days are here again. Well almost here. But yes, both the GOP and Dems will be trying to reviralize the old communal myths and a kiner gentler America. But only after this commercial break from our sponsors…

Does it starts, and end with money?

A baited banker thus desponds,

From his own hand foresees his fall,

They have his soul, who have his bonds;

’Tis like the writing on the wall. ( Jonathan Swift, The Run Upon the Bankers, 1720)

Krugman:One positive thing in Bernanke’s speech — I’m trying to look on the bright side — is that for what seems to me the first time he has more or less acknowledged that we are not, in any real sense, experiencing a recovery: Notwithstanding these more positive developments, however, it is clear that the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped. From the latest comprehensive revisions to the national accounts as well as the most recent estimates of growth in the first half of this year, we have learned that the recession was even deeper and the recovery even weaker than we had thought....Read More:http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/ image:http://katelandersevents.blogspot.com/2010/11/wizard-of-oz-party-and-surprise.html

But, is it inflation, or  recession or deflation,that we must fear most? The important thing is to fear it seems. Whether Weimar is on the horizon, or the Depression, or creeping fascism or creeping socialism or just plain creepies. The pundit debate lately  has reignited over issues  as old as the current malaise itself: On the FOMC its whether to  move quickly towards an incremental normalisation of monetary policy, which means looser money and a quantitative easing bomb and the austerity gang. Reading James Thurber from the 1930′s seems a similar context to today’s antagonisms. Either way, its a repeat of the great American con-game…

In James Thurber’s Let Your Mind Alone!: “It was in none other than the black, memorable year 1929, that the indefatigable Professor Walter B. Pitkin rose up with the announcement that “for the first time in the career of mankind happiness is coming within reach of millions of people.”

Mark Steyn:Charles Krauthammer did the math. If you eliminate the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Corporate Jet Tax Break, you would save so much dough that, after 5,000 years, you would have clawed back enough money to cover one year of Obama’s debt. Five thousand years is the year 7011. Boy, our kids’ll really be safe by then. I see some leftie at MSNBC has just been suspended for characterizing the president’s performance on Wednesday as that of a demotic synonym for the male reproductive organ. So I shall be more circumspect and say only that even being a hollow unprincipled demagogue requires a certain lightness of touch Obama can’t seem to find. Read More:http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/270993/obama-s-declaration-dependence-mark-steyn image:http://www.wingnuttoons.com/QuickDraw.html

Thurber’s irony, it seems to me, aims not only at the disjunction between the historical moment and the glad tidings proclaimed by an accomplished American huckster of happiness, but also at the American’s preoccupation with being happy, with happiness as the goal of life, as if in perverse misapplication of the most famous line in the Declaration of Independence. Unhappiness is un-American, we seem to believe, and becoming happy is something in the nature of a patriotic duty for all of us. Thurber’s remark also takes in, I believe, most of the politicians of the period, from men like Herbert Hoover, who offered only genial assurances that prosperity was just around the corner, to men like Franklin Roosevelt, whose plan of action Thurber seems generally to have approved but who came to power at the Democratic Convention of 1931 with the premature announcement that happy days were here again. It is not hard to hear in such assertions, at any rate, the familiar ring of an authentically American confidence game. Read More:http://www.compedit.com/james_thuber_and_depression_humor.htm

---In a more comic vein, Thurber tried to make his point about the leftists’ use of a language alien to their intended audience in a piece entitled "What Are the Leftists Saying" (1937), in which he "defines" for the uninitiated the meaning of terms like "escapism" and the practice of unmasking ideologies. His second point, that the leftists try to live their lives as though life were literature, is the main theme of "How to Write a Long Autobiography" (1937), in which Thurber produces the following sentence from Joseph Freeman’s An American Testament: "It was my idealistic, religious, artistic bias which made me blind to pragmatism" ---Read More:http://www.compedit.com/james_thuber_and_depression_humor.htm

Thurber’s chief mode of participating in the Depression was his running battle with leftist writers and critics. Given the infrequency and brevity of Thurber’s comments on the Depression, together with the New Yorker’s unmistakable ambience of affluence with its ads for Packard and Pierce-Arrow, Brooks Brothers and Bonwit Teller, it is small wonder that leftists viewed his writing with distrust and dismay. Thurber’s assessment of the complaint against New Yorker writers in general, that “we don’t attack communism but we don’t go for it, head over heels” (Bernstein, 229), greatly understates the true animosity involved in this particular literary controversy. Certainly it oversimplifies the issues. Like most other modernists, Thurber maintained throughout that he was simply defending art from contamination by life….

---Chomsky:How would you summarize the presidency of Barack Obama as of now? Is he doing fine? Noam Chomsky: Obama is a man of absolutely no principles. He has two constituencies. One of them is the popular constituency, the people who voted for him. For them he is doing essentially nothing. He has another constituency: the people who financed his campaign, the financial institutions. And they are getting rewarded. Obama came in the middle of the financial crisis so the first issue was what to do with the economic crisis? Well, he put together an economic team to deal with it but take a look at them. The business press went through the appointments and pointed out that these people should be getting subpoenas and should not be fixing the economy. They are the people who wrecked it. Nevertheless, they were picked by Obama to put bandages on it. I can go through the individuals if you like, for example Robert Rubin crew. They basically rescued the financial institutions, something that had to be done, but in fact they are now richer and more powerful than they were before. Read More:http://europeancourier.org/test/2011/03/13/noam-chomsky-on-obamas-presidency/ image:http://www.doctormacro.com/movie%20star%20pages/Cooper,%20Gary-Annex2.htm

…Art was inescapably autobiographical, to be sure, as he told Malcolm Cowley: “[O]ur own lives must always by the subject for our writings, come what may” . But the achievement of art required distance from life, as he wrote to Max Eastman at about the same time. “Humor,” he said, “is a kind of emotional chaos told about calmly and quietly in retrospect.”7 In this version of Wordsworth’s dictum, calm and quiet are clearly needed to transmute the raw materials of experience into art. The mistake of the leftists, in Thurber’s opinion, was that they were at once too conscious of being literary people and too involved in politics to practice the patience that art requires. Read More:http://www.compedit.com/james_thuber_and_depression_humor.htm

---Pecora uncovers the fact that National City Bank is really little more than an enormous criminal conspiracy dedicated to swindling small investors out of their savings. For years, the bank has been, via a subsidiary, the world's leading shill for what, in the biz, are called "securities", a direct violation of U.S. law which forbids banks to trade in "securities". Mitchell tells the Committee that he "did not see it as a problem." Of course for National City Bank, it wasn't a problem. His very good friend, Andrew Mellon of Gulf Oil, Mellon Bank and Alcoa had been essentially running the country for the benefit of the ruling class via the presidencies of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover since 1921. Mitchell is forced to admit to evading his personal income tax by way of imaginary interest payments on an imaginary loan of $2,800,000 from the National City Company. Mitchell was receiving about one and a half million dollars a year a time when the average industrial wage in the U.S. was about fifty cents an hour.--- Read More:http://mtwsfh.blogspot.com/2008/10/1933-1934-dust-bowl-gangsters-in.html image:http://www.zimbio.com/1930%27s+Hairstyles/articles/7/1930s+Style+Icon+Mae+West

For Depression-weary Americans, Thurber’s title would also have summoned up two other social myths besides Saroyan’s, both of them somewhere near the conservative end of the political spectrum. One of these myths recalls post-Civil War America and the small town and rural society which Thurber had already treated comically in My Life and Hard Times and would later celebrate in Thurber Country (1952). This is the world in which the song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” originated in the first place, a world where, as Thurber described it in “Return of the Native” (1950), “There was a lot of picnicking and canoeing and cycling, and going for hikes in the woods on Sundays in spring, the men in boaters and bright blazers, and the women in shirtwaists and skirts.” Its virtues were self-sufficiency, contentment, modest economic competence, and a kind of wide-eyed innocence before the outside world. There are, Thurber suggests, no daring young men any more, only worn out and ludicrous middle-aged ones who make themselves look even more foolish by placing themselves in situations into which only daring young men should enter. But there are, alas, plenty of P. T. Barnums left in Depression-ridden America, and there are still more suckers born every minute. Read More:http://www.compedit.com/james_thuber_and_depression_humor.htm

Konrad Yakabuski:Mr. Perry was not that candidate. Most sensible observers realized that fairly quickly. And not just because of his quip that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s attempts to stabilize the economy by printing money were “almost treasonous.” As early as August of 2011, Mr. Perry was a fountain of cringe-worthy promulgations on the campaign trail. He called evolution a “theory that’s out there.” Asked in Iowa whether he was carrying a gun, as he often did in Texas, where he possessed a concealed weapon permit, Mr. Perry retorted in his best Dirty Harry drawl: “That’s why they call it concealed.” With more executions under his belt than any modern governor, Mr. Perry seemed just a bit too trigger happy for most Americans. He even vetoed a bill to exempt mentally disabled convicts from death row. Read More:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/konrad-yakabuski/future-shock-and-the-winner-is-barack-obama/article2143925/ image:http://mothgirlwings.tumblr.com/post/1287664261/w-c-fields-on-the-golf-course-with-a-little

Thurber never did live down the charge of triviality first leveled against him in the New Masses. Though he bitterly assailed the Communist-hunting activities of Senator McCarthy and his cohorts in the late forties and early fifties,14 he never quite forgave such former friends as Donald Ogden Stewart and Dorothy Parker. As late as 1960 when he wrote “The Case of Comedy,” they were very much on his mind. The leftists, he said, are continuing their “concerted attack on humor as antisocial, antiracial, antilabor, [and] antiproletarian. . . . [T]hey have left no stereotype unused in their attack, from ‘no time for comedy’ to the grim warnings that humor is a sickness, a sign of inferiority complex, a shield and not a weapon.” Those final metaphors belong to Dorothy Parker, and they originally appeared in the New Masses during a debate already nearly a quarter century old when Thurber penned his….

…Had the Depression inspired only such pieces as “How to Write a Long Autobiography,” “What Are the Leftists Saying?,” and the parodies of Caldwell and a few other writers, that would indeed have seemed to justify Kyle Crichton’s claim that politics for Thurber was largely a matter of personal preference and class prejudice and that he wrote in a social vacuum. But there are, in fact, numerous other pieces not so purposefully or narrowly political which show Thurber as an acute observer of his times; these works clearly grow out of the Depression broadly considered as a psychological if not an economic and political phenomenon. Perhaps the most cynical story Thurber ever wrote, for example, “The Greatest Man in the World” (1931), belongs equally in time and temperament to the Depression era, when disillusionment with the American dream was rampant. The extravagance of the title tells us that this is a story about the carny hype and hoopla of the popular press, which affixed such hyperbolic labels to the latest hero as a mere matter of course. The term carries no historical force; it is unabashedly superlative because it does not really intend to invite comparison with other great men but simply to promote the most recent and, therefore, the “greatest” one. It belongs to the world of P. T. Barnum, to circus showmanship and spectacle, and is not something with which responsible journalism would have anything to do.

Freaks. Tod Browning. 1932---So, here we are. Neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Perry has enough delegates to carry the nomination. And Michele Bachmann has yet to release her delegates. She’s still claiming she’ll bring gas down below $2, still confusing Elvis Presley’s birth certificate with his death certificate, and still vowing never to raise the debt ceiling. It promises to be a carnival of a convention. The winner is unlikely to unite the party, making Barack Obama an odds-on favourite to become the first post-Depression president to win re-election with a jobless rate above 8 per cent----Read More:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/konrad-yakabuski/future-shock-and-the-winner-is-barack-obama/article2143925/ image:http://midnitemedia.blogspot.com/2010/12/horror-explorer-sneak-peak-1932.html

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