Once Upon a Time…you remember, don’t you, that timeless and universal fairy tale story opening from your childhood days? In a far-away land…Gathered ‘round the grown up reader, we kids would look up at the big open book with all the neat color pictures that she or he would show us at a given moment in the reading. And here is the beautiful princess kissing the frog…
We’re grown ups now, living in a land and a time far, far away from our childhoods, but from time-to-time we still believe in fairy tales. Or at the least the childhood fairy tales and fables remain so embedded in our consciousness that we can call them up instantly and recall our favorite lines. Let’s hit the instant recall button today, shall we?
It’s true that at least some folks among us have been living real fairy tale lives, at least until recently, working and living amidst grand splendor; we could especially find them in plush, well-appointed investment banking offices and brokerage shops and in the fabulous wealthy hedge fund-land. Then one day the Big Bad Ogres stumbled out of the dark forest to take away their bowls of porridge and bags of gold and those splendid silver winged carriages that whisked them hither and yon. And even their precious $86,000 office rugs, can you believe that!
Who took what from whom may be open to debate, of course. In the View of Wall Street’s Elite Few, it was a grand party while it lasted, and alas, that party is over, at least for now. For the many in the land who feel that they had their bowl of gruel taken away — unfairly, by distant unseen forces in moneyland, beyond their control and even their understanding…well, it was the shadowy “they” [that] have taken away their bowls – and a lot more with it.
Some day we may look back at these wondrous and magical days of 2009 and the tales we’ll tell of the special times that late 20th Century and early C-21 folks lived in.
They’ll say or write that in a land far, far away from here “…there lived a mighty leader who waved his magical wand and ‘poof,’ he could turn sleek, silver-clad, high-flying corporate jets into pumpkins – and even make them disappear entirely! He could wave the wand and wipe away the fabled corporate names embellishing grand sports stadiums!” His throne, they’ll recall, was called “The Bully Pulpit,” named by an earlier Prince of the People who lived in the same place a century earlier. That earlier prince also renamed the President’s House, calling it “The White House.” A mighty dragon slayer, they both were. (Numbers 26 and 44, some also called them.)
This prince #44 was raised up with great enthusiasm and fervor by the people of the land in 2008 and they called him “Prince of the People” and he used his Bully Pulpit wisely and well. And he was a grand speaker, often attacking the greedy Lords of the Land who stood accused of stealing many, many porridge bowls from the people of the land. And of distant lands as well, the lands of Sinbad-the-Sailor and the folks in Hans Christian Andersen tales, and more.
Here in 2009 when we think of fairy tales, we are reminded of the most creative artistic genius of the 20th Century – Walter Elias Disney – who mined the old fairy tales of Europe for his studio’s parade of animated movie hits: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Cinderella; Bambi; Dumbo (and the old Italian tale of Pinocchio with the nose that grew with lies), and more. The images he created are everlasting.
Where Uncle Walt cleaned up the telling of the old stories and gave us happy endings in those fairy tales of wondrous and far off lands, in our times the media and popular culture mavens told us tales celebrating the fairy tale lives of the contemporary Great and often, the Greedy: think of our fascination with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Alas, in a sign of the times, this week’s New York Times brought the sad news of the demise of some those tellers-of-tales of the most fortunate — the company publishing magazine titles Trader Monthly, Dealmaker, Private Air, and Corporate Leader…is no more. No more we will read tales and gossip and news of the fortunate, or follow Trader Monthly magazine’s advice to the Wall Street Elite: See It / Make It / Spend It – on higher end real estate, cars, fashion, liquor, and gadgets. (In the words of the editors, “The ideal reader is 29 years old, making $400,000 a year and spending all of it!” (Doubledown Media’s company Web site is gone – you see, even tellers of fairy tales can vanish overnight.)
Postscript to this story: One on-line wag asked: Does this mean that Marie Antoinette’s magazine “CAKE” won’t be published anymore either?
“In These Extraordinary Times”
The future Uncle Walt creating his 21st Century fairy tales – about living in these extraordinary times, the Prince of the People early in his rule hath declared — can tune into this apt metaphor for the early years of the 21st Century boom and bust: In an internal email to employees, as was the custom leaked to Bloggers, the media Dealmaker’s company CEO allegedly wrote: “These are unprecedented times. The combination of the media depression, the Wall Street implosion and credit slowdown were collectively too much for our company – probably for any company in our shoes – to overcome.” Goodbye. No more fairy tales for now.
Maybe the red slippers of Dorothy in the Land of Oz would have helped? In the Emerald City – otherwise known until summer of 2008 as downtown Manhattan – the elites may forever go on telling the tales of the fabulous Emerald City they once knew and cherished…and helped destroy in their narcissism and worship of the lucre. (Remember him gazing at himself in the pond? He fell in and drowned.) “Poof” – things can go away like that in real life, too!
And to so to February 2009 and Day 17:
Do magic wands actually work? Well…sometimes…and we’ll see. If they are waved energetically from the Bully Pulpit at the Kingdoms of the Elite, high-flying corporate jets have disappeared. Bags of gold – think of these in modern terms as executive compensation – are right now being taken away from the elites at organizations that have received gifts from the bountiful treasuries of the Land of the People. You remember, those who crowned the Prince of The People to save them.
Methinks that the rising fury of the people is still underestimated by some in the kingdom, however. Think of the scenes in the 1931 horror move classic, “Frankenstein,” with the villagers at the gates of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle – torches in hand. The metaphoric village crowd with their torches are at the gates of the White House and Congress these days. We should not underestimate the anger and fury of the American people as their 401-k go “poof” and their jobs disappear at a wand’s wave by the employers of the land.
Of course, as in fairy tales, life can be hard and magical tricks difficult to pull off. We’re reminded of what then-US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on February 24, 2008 on the campaign trail at Rhode Island College in Providence Rhode Island (speaking of healthcare reform) – as she proclaimed lyrically to great applause…
“Let’s get everybody together – let’s get unified
The sky will open
The light will come down
Celestial choirs will be singing
Everyone will know we can do the right thing
And the world will be perfect…”
She had no illusions, she said, about how hard [reform] would be: You will not wave the magic wand…and have the special interests disappear…
And as we think of the missing billions in the bags of gold entrusted to Bernard Madoff by thousands of trusting souls, with new lists of the suckered playing out in the media day-by-day, we recall the fable of the child crying out in his wisdom what everyone really knew but were afraid to say. Think back to the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” by Hans Christian Anderson (1837).
In this tale the emperor hires two swindlers to make him a fine suit of clothes, of grand cloth, which will be invisible to anyone too stupid or unfit for his position. The emperor buys this scam, and then goes around naked, and everyone in the kingdom looks on — believing? Wanting to believe? Because everyone else believed? Because everyone knew someone who they said believed? And then the child cries out. “But he has nothing on!” The crowd knows it – but it still felt right to the emperor who rides on continuing to believe that he is clothed. He wanted to believe! Sound familiar?
In our adulthood, we came to understand that the old fairy tales had audiences of both young and old, and were often important lessons to be imparted, usually scary at times, and usually containing life’s brutal lessons. But we wanna believe, and that’s what makes them so powerful to each of us.
Which brings to mind Frank Sinatra’s most requested hit song (with slight paraphrasing):
“Fairy tales can come true,
It can happen to you
…if you’re brave at heart!”
“For it’s hard, you will find,
To be narrow of mind,
If you’re brave at heart…”
Well, children – and grown ups of all ages: Welcome to February 2009 and the waving-of-the-many-wands quite bravely from the Bully Pulpit in the White House and even the Grand Halls atop The Fabled City on the Hill. Let’s hope some of this magic works – in time to save the kingdom! The question is: When we wake up will we have returned to the splendid colors of the Land of Oz…or to the black and white drabness of Kansas?
Do Stay Tuned!
(You can read more about Doubledown Media at Folio Magazine — http://www.foliomag.com/2009/breaking-doubledown-media-shuts-down
You can see Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign video – she was directly addressing her primary competitor’s (Senator Barack Obama) positions on reforming healthcare.
“Now I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified. The sky will open. The lights will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.’
“Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear,” she said. Read whole blog post at: http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/02/clinton_raps_obamas_celestial.html
See the video at: See the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1ckrEeHDRY
Thanks to Wikipedia for this: “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – by Hans Christian Anderson (1837) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor’s_New_Clothes
About Frank Sinatra’s song: “Young at Heart”
The songwriters were Carolyn Leigh and Johnny Richards
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