This is Halloween!

Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see,
This our town of Halloween!

– From “A Nightmare Before Christmas” by Tim Burton

Halloween is one of those things that’s pretty obvious.  It’s a spooky time of year when everything seems a little depressing – why not make it fun?  Yet any history of the holiday starts with ancient Celts and Romans and winds up … not entirely making sense.  How do we get from religious celebration to gorging ourselves on sugar?

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Assault on Shakespeare

Today the movie “Anonymous” opens in the US and UK.  It is a work of historical fiction centered around the notion that William Shakespeare was not a real person, but a pen-name used by the Earl of Oxford.  Under normal circumstances it would be best to simply ignore something this ridiculous, but reaction to it goes beyond defending William Shakespeare – there is an important undercurrent hidden in the need to assault history as we know it and uncover “conspiracies” long past.

Ownership of history is, at least in part, ownership of a culture.  Exposing history as a pack of lies suggests that education and culture, as we know it, is nothing more than a tool of exploiters.  The somewhat desperate need to uncover conspiracies is probably nothing more than a political statement borne from the politics of our time, not the politics of 1600 portrayed on the screen.  This trend is bizarre, wrong and … quite fascinating.

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Socialized Risk

Risk and reward management are the heart of any investment.  Money goes into ideas and efforts that have a chance of paying it back with a little bit of profit at the end.  If risk is completely removed anyone will make decisions and try things that they might not have otherwise.  When the risk is spread out to people that they don’t know or necessarily care about, disaster is pending.

That’s pretty much what just happened to our economy – socialized risk with private profit.

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Too Big To Be Useful

Protests continue on Wall Street and around the nation calling for a vague program of reform.  Polls continue to show that the effort is popular, with opinion against Big Government even stronger than feeling against Big Business.  It seems that after many years we are beginning to develop the courage to make small plans once again.

At the heart of it all is 30 years of an applied theory, a history that appears to be discredited but never been properly repudiated.  As we move past the dogma of Supply-Side economics there is a lot more than government taxing and spending policy to clean up.  There are the banks whose turf is being occupied today, those that are beyond Too Big to Fail and well into Too Big to Understand and simply Too Big.  They got that way the same way our government did – by leaving common sense and history behind.

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Second Person

You have seen it used many times, but it often passes by without notice.  It’s entirely possible that you had an English teacher who said it should never be done. You may have never contemplated using the second person perspective, the most direct and directed form.  But you have seen it used all over the internet as one of the most immediate and direct ways of speaking to someone.

You can use it as an accusation or from inside someone’s head.  Through its many uses and distinct flavors, you will find that nothing suits the internet quite like second person.

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Scene, Unseen

What we know about our past is often heavily filtered through something like “conventional wisdom”. Certain “great men” are raised up as heroes while others are confined to the footnotes of history. The names that we hear often get credit for far more than they deserve as they ossify into myths, people who are bigger than life. That’s been changing lately as we study history as the actions of people who were simply doing their best. It’s especially evident in the growing body of performances of ancient music that showcase “minor” composers – those who made up the scene that made it all happen.

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“Supply Side” is Dead

“Supply Side” economics has always been a fancy term that sounded like a plan.  It was popular in the 1980s because it seemed to work – but very few people ever understood that it worked for the wrong reasons.  It was, at least in practice, the old Keynesian theory dressed up in a suit and ready for a white-collar world.

It’s time to call this for what it is – a political con – and to put it to rest.

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