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« California, Visited | Main | Fact for the Day »

November 13, 2008

Cutting Personal Spending

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

People with credible (beyond early childhood) memories of the Great Depression are now in their early eighties or older. The rest of us can only envision that period vicariously through books, old magazines, movies and so forth.

I wonder what share of today's population has ever gone to the trouble of studying the Depression in either its economic sense or in terms of how ordinary folks coped with it. My guess is that most people have not; they most likely have a cartoon version of that era.

I think it is useful to remind ourselves that the majority of members of the labor force did have jobs, that not everyone was on the dole or living in Hoovervilles. Money was spent. Automobiles were purchased, though not nearly as many as in 1928, say. Hollywood prospered because even folks on very tight budgets would spring for a little entertainment now and then.

All of which is not to deny that we have been comparatively spoiled the last 40 or 50 years. For example, I too tend to treat many broken items as disposable that I would have had repaired when I was young. My mother used to darn our socks; nowadays I toss 'em when holed.

Vibrations I get from recent shopping mall visits include smaller crowds and more sale offerings. Big-ticket items such as automobiles seem to be especially hard-hit and a current debate is whether the government should subsidize the car industry or let firms go bankrupt.

This discussion is leading to the question of what you, Our Valued Readers, are doing to cope with the present economic situation.

On the one hand, a rational response if one's income is threatened or actually terminated is to slam on the spending brake. On the other hand, reduced spending will lead to even more job losses and a self-reinforcing downward economic spiral.

As for me, I'm retired and make significantly less than I did three years ago. I pretty much have to spend everything that comes in due to various fixed commitments such as insurance policies, so I can't economize much even if I wanted to. (Travel comes out of a family, not personal, budget and economies are planned there.)

How are you coping (or plan to cope if things get worse for you)?



posted by Donald at November 13, 2008


I've essentially stopped dining out this last six months. It's a shame, too, it reduces the quality of life.

Posted by: Don McArthur on November 13, 2008 5:56 PM

First move, no more shopping at Whole Foods. First because it saves me money. Second because I grow wearing of seeing them price cheeses at above $35 a pound. Third, it makes me feel good to short the company's tedious holier-than-thou programs.

Posted by: vanderleun on November 13, 2008 6:03 PM

Oh, I looove Whole Foods! But seriously, it's become a treat that I can't afford, save on very, very, very special occasions. Like when my next book(s) are reviewed by the NY Times - which guarantees that I will never darken the Whole Foods door again.
Cheer up, VL - there is always Sam's Club. No better way to save than to buy in bulk the stuff that you KNOW you are going to consume.

I might also amuse you with a genu-wine Depression-era recipe, handed down from my dear Granny Jessie and often served up by my mother during those lean years when my father was going after his doctorate on the GI Bill. She called it "Poverty Casserole"

One pound cheap ground round, one whole onion, one cup uncooked white rice, one large russet potato, one can tomato sauce.

Thinly slice the potato and the onion, and crumble up the beef. Layer all alternately in a casserole dish - beef, onion, potato, and rice. About two layers of each should do it. Open the can of tomato sauce and pour it over. Sprinkle a little pepper and salt over it and any other exotic seasonings like oregano that you feel moved to add. Fill the can with water and pour that in. Bake at 350 until the rice is done.

Tasty, filling and covers three out of four of the major food groups.

As for my plan to cope if things get worse? I don't see how they can. This year I've already been cut back at two of my part-time jobs, been fired from another, lost a fourth when my boss died suddenly... if it weren't for the affection of fans who buy my books and a military pension, I would be sooooo screwed.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom on November 13, 2008 6:55 PM

I am making more money than I ever have before and really have no plans to curtail any spending.

But its interesting to me that so many people have been affected so quickly that they have stopped eating out and have drastically changed their spending habits. I hear and read this from a lot of people - many of whom I know don't really have anything to worry about.

Posted by: Pat Hobby on November 13, 2008 7:08 PM

And to address your original proposition - my Grandfather Jim was mildly famous in his neighborhood (admittedly not one of Pasadena, CA swankier addresses - the street wasn't paved until after WWII and there was no sidewalk when I visited as a child up until the early 60s) for not only having a job, but the same job from one end of the Depression to the other.

There were a lot of children who came over to play with my Mom and my Uncle Jimmy, who were still there at dinnertime. My grandmother fed them, without any comment.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom on November 13, 2008 7:13 PM

My 84 y.o. MIL would agree with you. She states that while a child, living on a farm, she had NO perception of the Great Depression. NO memories at all.

Posted by: jz on November 13, 2008 7:31 PM

Well, my "family budget" and my "personal budget" are one and the same thing, and as Pat Hobby, I'm making more now than I ever had.
My spending habits didn't change; I'd always lived within my means. Less ballet and theater outings, maybe - but by reasons not related to saving money. Biggest upcoming expense - I plan to invest relatively big chunk of money as soon as market become less volatile: I don't want to continue working 20 years from now.
I'm not afraid of the future, though, in any economic outcome. Besides my main occupation, I'm good at half a dozen others, that pay less. I had periods in my life that taught me how to live on a tiny fraction of what I have now; most recent one - 16 years ago when I just arrived in US. I fed a family of three on $9,400 a year: I know it exactly because I just received Social Security letter that lists all my incomes yearly.

Oh - and Donald: not only I know how to mend socks: I cook, I clean, I knit, I do all house chores myself. And I sing when I iron my Egyptian-cotton bedding.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 13, 2008 7:52 PM

My favorite precaution: pay down debt! For many of us (including me), it is the easiest way to increase disposable income and to be ready in the event that a family member loses her/his job.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on November 13, 2008 8:02 PM

In many cases the economic pressure people are feeling is more psychological than actual. They haven't lost their jobs, aren't in much danger of doing so, and don't have adjustable rate mortgages that are about to go sky-high. Yet they're all stressed out, which is easy to understand given all the gloom-and-doom economic news inundating us.

Posted by: Peter on November 13, 2008 10:16 PM

Sgt. Mom, you sound really cool.

And that casserole sounds good too. I have this feeling I'm going to need that recipe soon.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 13, 2008 10:29 PM

I'm packing on a lot of weight in anticipation of the Famine of 2009. I know you guys don't like carbs but they get the job done!

My grandparents used to tell me about the 30s. They were never hungry because they lived on farms in Indiana. There wasn't any money but there wasn't much to buy anyway.

Grandma used to tell me about her trips to Florida in the 20s when she was a kid and they did have money. They owned an island down there or something. She saw a band once and thought the saxophone was cool and wanted to learn how to play it but they told her that wasn't a girls instrument.

Posted by: Bhh on November 13, 2008 10:30 PM

There are cheaper meals, Sgt. Mom. I once knew someone who lived on a farm in Poland for a year in the 1970s (getting in touch with his ethnic roots). He found this recipe very useful in grad school: Fry a small onion in a small amount of grease in a large skillet, then fill up the pan with half cabbage and half previously-cooked noodles of some sort and fry them up together: very nourishing and very cheap. The onion makes all the difference in raising the taste from 'ugh' to acceptable.

Posted by: Dr Weevil on November 13, 2008 11:17 PM

Well, if you guys want to engage into scaring each other with Recipes Of Gloomy Times, I'd suggest opening M.F.K. Fisher's How to cook a wolf.

I could supply some suggestions of my own, by you wouldn't believe me that people my live (for years!) on a diet of wild mushrooms, dandelions and occasional loaf of bread.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 14, 2008 7:52 AM

Listen carefully to The One.

Prez-elect Obama immediately amended his rhetoric in his first speech after being elected.

Prior to the election, the financial mess was the "greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Post election, the financial mess is now the "greatest financial crisis of our lifetime."

Now that the Obama-droids own the mess, expect the End of the World rhetoric to continue to crank down. The same liberal media that banded together to create the myth of Obama has everything invested in the success of his presidency.

No doubt, the mortgage scam has been disastrous.

But, once The One takes office, expect the outlook to become much rosier.

Posted by: Stephen Thomas on November 14, 2008 8:08 AM

Even if you have a job, the strategy at this point should be to build up a large cushion in case you lose your job. This is something you should have anyway, but now the assumption is that a lot more other people will be out of a job at the same time than is usually the case, so it may take a lot longer to get a job than usual if you lose it.

I really am unhappy about the 401K situation. I wish there were other things to put it in than the standard Fidelity equity funds that the company allows us to choose from. If I could use that money to buy gold bullion, at this point, I would...

Posted by: JP on November 14, 2008 8:35 AM

JP, as I understand, "at this point" is too late to buy a gold bullion.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 14, 2008 9:52 AM

I personally am diverting every dollar I can to paying down debt. This is probably foolish in that debtors will doubtlessly get even better treatment than they have so far, but I do not like all these payments hanging over my head. I am indulging myself as much as I ever have, but in much smaller ways - instead of a new camera every other year, which has been my habit for some time (I sell the old ones) I'll buy some nice paper or enter a photo contest with a small entry fee or hire a model once in a while. Instead of going out to eat I'll pick up nice takeout or get some nice ice cream to eat at home. That sort of thing.

However, here's the real problem: during the Great Depression, we had private/community social support networks and a firm commitment to law and order. Bonnie and Clyde were popular "heroes" in that their exploits were so *extraordinary,* and provided entertainment and a bit of spice to life. That said, Bonnie and Clyde and the rest of their colleagues were of no particular danger to anyone but LEO's and bankers, and even the bankers were safe if they didn't do anything dumb.

Now we have a huge permanent underclass which will soon be prohibitively expensive to support in even the relatively modest means to which they have become accustomed, and a large criminal class which doesn't even have the residual sensibilities of the gangsters of the 30's. The prospect of gardening in their backyards and making their own clothes is not one which will serve. Learning about the implementation of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," as one of my many books about the Depression so charmingly puts it, will not help us as a society this time.


Posted by: StM on November 14, 2008 10:14 AM

Like some others here, I'm currently making more than I ever had (knock on wood). However, the CEO of my company has already sent out the company-wide email about cutting costs, less business travel, etc. So I am cutting back, diverting more to savings and focusing on paying down our credit card, just in case. I've also spruced up my resume and re-upped on I'm the sole breadwinner and have 3 kids, so I'm taking no chances.

Only one of my grandparents was in the US during the Depression and he (my paternal step-grandfather) was an adolescent. He said everyone around him was at about the same level, so no one noticed.

Posted by: JV on November 14, 2008 11:10 AM

That's funny. The Depression was a defining event for the people on both sides of my family. One side did OK -- my grandfather was employed throughout the period -- but was well aware of what might be. The other side was completely devastated economically -- went from being prosperous to being poor-poor, as in begging soupbones from the butcher type poor. Never lost their house, though it did grow very shabby. So I grew up very aware of having two Depression-era parents.

Sadly, I have no debt to pay down. No mortgage, credit card under control, etc. So I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be chipping in some of my carefully-tended, very modest money to help all the "bad debt" crowd get out from under their troubles.

If you've got some bad debt, just let me know, and even if I've never heard of you and disapprove completely of how you've conducted your financial life, I'll be happy to send you a check for a few thou. Because I'm that kind of sucker.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 14, 2008 11:51 AM

- Pack lunch from home - don't eat out except with family occasionally.
- Drive less and work from home when feasible
- DIY household repairs and tasks as much as possible
- Costco is your friend
- Take kids out of unproductive extra curricular activities and classes until they are older and can credibly get something out of them

Posted by: JM on November 14, 2008 11:57 AM

"Well, if you guys want to engage into scaring each other with Recipes Of Gloomy Times, I'd suggest opening M.F.K. Fisher's How to cook a wolf."

Yeah? Try jellied moose nose.

Posted by: Not Hungry on November 14, 2008 12:03 PM

Couldn't be worse than a pie with cow's teat filling, could it?

Posted by: Tatyana on November 14, 2008 12:53 PM

investing like there is no tomorrow...yippe! cheap OEIC's !!!

Posted by: john on November 14, 2008 1:34 PM

A few summers ago we cooked snails gathered in our garden. They were pretty good; tasted just like escargots i.e. of garlic, butter, parsley and rubber.

Posted by: dearieme on November 14, 2008 2:21 PM

I just canceled my cable TV subscription. That should save me about 6 or 700 bucks a year.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 14, 2008 2:25 PM

Two friends have cancelled their cable subscriptions recently and are loving the experience of no tv. I'm seriously thinking of joining them. I never watch the farking thing anymore, so why am I paying $500/year for the privilege of a dark blank screen?

The Web has swallowed me whole. I do read books still (thank God!), but TV? I wonder if television will implode (I mean really, really implode) as people tighten their belts with the recession, decide to do triage on their electro-connections...and find television is at the bottom of their must-have list. Stranger things have happened.

So...if the recession deepens, television (at least among those under 40) will disappear as a medium of consequence. Not just weaken. Disappear.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 14, 2008 2:59 PM

Well, whatever you do folks, PLEASE continue to download audiobooks!

Posted by: charlton Griffin on November 14, 2008 3:12 PM

I lead a pretty frugal existence to begin with, other then the occasional restaurant visit, and bottle of wine or 3 a week.

I'm still patiently waiting for the economic apocalypse to happen, and be able to snap up bargains from suffering wealthy people such as Shakespeare First Folios for $300; Vermeer paintings for $600; Manhattan townhouse for $400 thousand, etc.

Posted by: Wade Nichols on November 14, 2008 4:33 PM

Don't worry Charlton, I'm a major fan!

Posted by: Lester Hunt on November 14, 2008 6:16 PM

Oh, please - everybody, please don't cut down on buying books. Books are my life, now that I am writing and publishing them!

So, anyone want to hear about all the weird and cheap foods that my Mom bought at the local food co-op during the late 1970s, like the infamous rubbery chickens and the beef-hearts that she made into a casserole? Seriously, some of the off-standard animal parts can be quite tasty, given the right sort of treatment.

"A few summers ago we cooked snails gathered in our garden. They were pretty good; tasted just like escargots i.e. of garlic, butter, parsley and rubber"

It's been my experience, Dearime, that if you put enough butter, garlic and parsley on anything, they can be rendered edible. Snails might taste like garlic-drenched phlegm - but at least they are edible.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom on November 14, 2008 7:39 PM

"at this point" is too late to buy a gold bullion.

It is never too late to buy gold!

Holding dollars (or any investment denominated in dollars) is like getting stuck with the Old Maid. Don't let that happen to you.

Posted by: JP on November 14, 2008 9:41 PM

I cut out TV in 2004 to save some money, and apart from one show which I rent each year when it comes out on DVD, I don't watch any, save when I'm exposed to it, out somewhere, or in a hotel room, or at someone's house. That's enough for me; I don't miss it. I enjoy the 'net far more.

Posted by: Will S. on November 15, 2008 7:00 AM

I'll eat jellied moose nose before I cut down on books.

Posted by: Brian on November 15, 2008 11:52 AM

I have a response, but it was so large, I put it up at my place.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on November 15, 2008 11:52 AM

I just got a renewal notice for the San Francisco Chronicle. They now want $300 for a year. I'm going to do without it for a while, and maybe resubscribe if they offer me a better deal.

Posted by: PapayaSF on November 15, 2008 1:02 PM

It all depends where you were.

My maternal grandfather, running a furniture store in Colorado Springs, lost his business and had a struggle to get back on his financial feet.

My paternal grandfather, co-owner of a menswear store in the oil boom town of Tulsa. My father recalls going to high school parties in a tuxedo and always says, "There was no Depression in Tulsa."

Posted by: Chas S. Clifton on November 15, 2008 4:04 PM

I am now buying two compact discs a week instead of one. Therefore, I do more listening and less reading, which reduces the wear on my eyeglass lenses.

I've also given up my smug "I'm an investor, not a trader" attitude. In this market, being anything other than a trader probably doesn't make sense. Last week I bought 20 shares of a stock and sold them the next day for a net profit of $32. I can't afford to be too proud to scalp a few points.

Posted by: Rick Darby on November 15, 2008 4:25 PM

I heard lots of Depression stories from my grandparents while I was growing up. One grandfather worked for a railroad managing maintenance crews, and worked steadily through the whole period. The other grandfather owned a drugstore in a small town in rural Arkansas. He made it through okay, but his stories centered on how the farmers had plenty to eat but were cash-poor. He was often bartering goods for food. As many stores in small towns did then, he carried most customers on accounts. He used to tell me that he found it impossible to tell sick people he wouldn't sell them medicine. People would bring him hams or chickens and ask him if he would "carry" their account until they had some cash to pay it off. He carried some people for years.

These poverty recipes remind me of my graduate school diet while at U of Colorado. My biggest coup was in discovering an incredibly cheap food source. Commercial "egg ranches" candle all their eggs to look for blood spots in the yolks. Those that do are separated and not sold to the supermarkets. I found an "egg ranch" near Boulder that would sell me these as "dog food" eggs for 36 cents a flat - that's a penny an egg. They sprayed a blue dye on the shells and I had to sign a slip acknowledging they weren't for human consumption.

The dye rinsed off the shells and the eggs were fine. I'd say 95% or more never had a spot you could see, and if they did you could dip it out with a spoon.

For a couple of years I fixed eggs just about every way you can think of. Probably a good thing no one in my family has colestrol problems.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on November 15, 2008 6:37 PM

In the Really Old Days (pre-1920 or so) there would be a Panic, businesses would bust and spending would drop in a feedback loop until the business cycle hit bottom. This usually took about three months. At that point, there would be bargains and opportunities everywhere, and the cycle would reverse. The important point here is that while these panics were severe, they were also brief. Later efforts to cushion a downturn often had the effect of prolonging it.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on November 15, 2008 7:08 PM

I'm coping by increasing my antidepressants and trying to enjoy small pleasures, like reading about Tatyana's domestic skills.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 15, 2008 10:23 PM

On my father's side the Depression stories recounted how he was "farmed out" from roughly age 5 – 8. He spent those years living with an older couple (friends of family) on their farm while his divorced mother went north to NYC to find work and/or a husband. When she finally did he was put on a train and sent to join her. The new husband was less than thrilled with his new wife having a kid and life was far from ideal. Dad got a new suit and $50 when he reached sixteen and was told he was on his own.

My mother's father had a one-truck distribution business that sold sundries to stores way Down East in Maine. Her mother worked variously in hotels and factories. Mom's stories were about all the times Gramp brought home someone really down on their luck for dinner, or gave someone a pair of shoes, and how her dad carried clients or took barter. Both my parents felt since they never went truly hungry for long and didn't end up homeless they were fortunate.

As for my wife and me, we've been using most of the cost cutting measures mentioned so far for most of our lives.[See Yahmdallah's link for a pretty good list.] We had basic cable for a few years a decade or so back, but have only watched what the rabbit ears can pull in for at least the last ten years. A real dinner out is extremely rare. When we do we have a long list of good local restaurants where we usually share an appetizer or two with one entree; if we're really splurging I'll have one beer with dinner, we don't order desserts, coffee, or drinks. Clothes dry on the line most of the year rather than using the drier. The thermostat is set for 60. Most of our clothes shopping gets done at Goodwill or various factory outlets. In short, we've always lived by the "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," motto.

Since both the Wife and Daughter Unit are Whole Foods employees, we shop there (with the employee discount). In fact, the Daughter Unit recently began doing "shopping on a budget" tours of the Whole Foods' aisles for customers and school groups. Her store supports a food bank in a local high school where she has given demonstrations of inexpensive, yet healthy, meals for kids already essentially surviving on their own.

We shop local businesses for the most part, even if prices are sometimes slightly higher, rather than big box stores because we see the connection between global corporatism and the various multiple crisis we face. I'd rather my local roaster get a dime or so more a cup than shop Dunkin Donuts or whatever where too much of the cash stream leaves the area. And I shop chains like Whole Foods or (on the road and no local place known) Starbucks whose "tedious holier-than-thou programs" I agree with ... paying employees well, offering excellent benefits, contributing to many charities, Fair Trade buying practices. For the same reason I avoid the short term lure of lower prices at Walmart, recognizing that Walmart's use of illegal immigrant labor, low pay scales, lack of benefits, etc. hurts the local economy more than it helps.

Posted by: Chris White on November 16, 2008 9:22 AM

Chris, I know the parody above was unintentional, but you do crack me up.
I bet at a minimum, you have chronic indigestion, after living for years as if the apocalypse is here and now. Poor damaged Chris, believing his own propaganda.

I think I'll go out for branch, and eat 2 Eggs Benedict in your honor. And double espresso with some French pastry.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 16, 2008 10:14 AM


I prefer to make more money and buy nice stuff.

Given my druthers, I'll go out to a fine restaurant.

I adopt the sort of measures you suggest only when my situation becomes catastrophic.

My first wife (also deceased) was a hippie. She wouldn't work at anything that didn't make her feel holy. What a drag that was.k She was a good girl, but her hipsterism was an all-consuming global excuse for refusing to learn a lucrative trade.

For me, what you've outlined is a life of incredible boredom and insane sanctimony. I don't know how you keep from hanging yourself. Takes all kinds.

Could be that the bottom will drop out and I won't be able to afford a decent life. I hope that, in that case, I don't become as drearily sanctimonious as you have become in an attempt to rationalize the reality that I'm broke.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 16, 2008 11:27 AM

I'm back, well fed and in peace with the world. So I'm inclined to do some charitable work. Let me translate this little advice by Rabbi Barenbaum, re: limits of economy during financial crisis.
-A teabag could be used 7 times. On the eighth it'll pop up by itself to see the cheapskate who's using it.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 16, 2008 1:07 PM

I'm lovin' this thread! Keep the comments coming people. It's the perfect combination of simple living philosophy, memories of the old days, and good old snark.


Posted by: PatrickH on November 16, 2008 1:54 PM

The twaddle ST & Tatyana trade in is at least as judgmental, self-righteous and presumptuous as they seem to think my comments are. Apparently it irks ST & Tat that, unlike many on this blog, I am not doing as well as ever with plans to snap up some stocks at the bottom of the market. Like a lot of folks on the right they presume lack of financial success reveals character flaws; the richer you are, the better a person you must be. Anyone who is not doing well economically has only themselves to blame. Those not comfortably well off are probably drug addled, lazy, crazy, or spendthrifts. ST & Tatyana must identify with Henry Potter not George Bailey when watching "It's a Wonderful Life."

This is a thread about what our ancestors' experiences were during the Depression and what we're doing to cope with the current economic down turn ... so that's what I did. For what it is worth, I hardly "live as if the apocalypse is here and now". With the Wife involved in theater and performing in a couple of bands we go to lots of events, we eat well, we enjoy life ... and we do so while being frugal and buying local.

Posted by: Chris White on November 16, 2008 4:31 PM

Chris, dolly, you think too much of my comments. I've no interest in how you make your money, or plan to, or why you presume snapping the stocks at the bottom price is bad for your health. [And I never read Harry Potter; life is too short - I prefer Mark Steyn]

It's just your life as you described it comes out so dull, so...puritanical (in worst possible sense). Glad to hear you do have some fun. Best regards to your jolly family.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 16, 2008 8:18 PM

By "fun" I meant something beyond counting your carbon footprint. Even if it brings a smile of satisfaction on your face when compared to your neighbors' impact on Arctic seals.

Chris, have you heard of dumpster diving? Maybe oyu should consider it as next step in saving your soul by saving the planet.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 16, 2008 9:25 PM


I didn't snap up stocks to make a living.

That came at the end of the chain.

What I did first was to humble myself to learn a hard skill that people want to pay for. I worked at things I didn't necessarily want to do in order to please and help others.

Yeah, you bet I'm judgmental as hell.

What you describe is poverty well earned by arrogance, and a refusal to humble yourself to learn something worthwhile.

Oddly, it is the fat of America that allows you to live this way without starving to death. And, you endlessly condemn America, and the people who work hard at unpleasant tasks. You're an ingrate as well as a lazy oaf. You are pure Woodstock.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 16, 2008 10:20 PM

Tat, Chris wrote HENRY Potter, not Harry. Ha. I confess I read it as Harry the first time around, too.

Posted by: JV on November 16, 2008 10:48 PM

Chris, now you have inexplicably incurred the wrath of Tatyana, and she will just get nastier and more personal. You may wonder why a stranger would suddenly turn on you, mocking your entire life and advising you to live in a dumpster. There is no answer, only free-floating rage.

When it gets too much, just go to for relief.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 16, 2008 11:35 PM

JV - and he meant some movie, I now understand, not a book. But does it make a difference? What's the point in speculating what character I prefer in a movie if I've never seen it?

Posted by: Tatyana on November 17, 2008 7:43 AM

Sister – I long ago became a target for ST & Tatyana. Much of the venom they spew at me seems directed at some imagined, grossly distorted, stereotypes rather than what I actually say. For ST it is all about the loathing he has for most of the citizens in his own community. He loves Woodstock, the geography of the town, that is; he just can't stand the people who live there. Tatyana's life behind what was once called the Iron Curtain has left her hyper-vigilant for any political philosophies that have a whiff of collectivist, communitarian, thinking which she must denounce as the first step on the road to inevitable Stalinism.

Most of the debates I find myself in here on 2Blowhards have certain things in common. A posting or the comments it generates sets forth some position say, for example, that modernist art is bad. I offer a comment to the effect that many, including myself, appreciate and enjoy modernist art. Aesthetic taste, I aver, is not something that can be deemed objectively good or bad. Then I get clobbered for failing to share the dominant 2BH aesthetic.

In the context of this thread, I was brought up by parents whose Depression experiences seemed fairly common; times were tough, but they survived. The lessons they imparted emphasized that the positive aspects of their childhood were due to everyone around them being in much the same situation and the way their families and communities pulled together. We'll see, if things get much worse, whether this financial crisis is one that sees folks helping each other and getting through the tough times, or whether this is one of the times when the results include blood in the streets.

Posted by: Chris White on November 17, 2008 8:10 AM

The evil Potter! With his forecloseiamus! spell.

I'm afraid ol' Henry's going to be swallowed whole by young Harry in the culture-red-in-tooth-and-claw war for memetic survival.

It's a jungle out there in people's minds. Amnesia take the hindmost. Brrrrr.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 17, 2008 9:07 AM

Chris, I've tried to tell you - don't speculate about my motives: you miss the target by about 50ft.

Stalinism is not what I see at the end of this road you defend; if you must trade in dead Soviet leaders, Brezhnev, with elements of Gorbachov (sort of a "crunchy communist"), will be more appropriate name for a label.

A question - will the people be inclined to help each other if the going gets real tough? - is interesting one. If you want to know my opinion (based on my life behind the Curtain, yes -it IS relevant) -I think they will, but in lesser degree than they were during 1930's. Because big parts of population were trained to rely on government, not themselves - and that's the fault of the collectivist Lefties.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 17, 2008 10:12 AM

My father, now 83, has encouraged me to put a total break on discretionary entertainment spending, and to cut essentials to the bone. We live on canned beans and rice and the multilingual cultural pretensions of my grandfather's library. The memories of the depression are horrible, with the kids being sent out to live with relatives in order for my grandfather to regain the mobility for journeyman artisan labor (he was a jeweler, and went from having his own store to migrant piece-work). Memories of emergency food aid, and mercifully never being so poor as to need that. The recovery came when my aunt was married off, Uncle Sam took charge of my father, and the post-WW2 boom allowed my grandfather to buy back into a business.

My father, now retired for 10 years as this crisis hit, is a bit miffed that 50 years as a taxpayer have come to this, but too much of his $ was in FNMA stock.

Posted by: Eurosabra on November 17, 2008 11:05 AM

I'll stop speculating about your motives when you accord me the same courtesy. FWIW I think the perspective you bring to topics here is well worth considering. You may not change my mind, but you do make me think about topics in new and different ways. Your past gives your take on, say, whether people will be inclined to help each other through tough times or not a different perspective, one it is useful to have and consider.

"It's A Wonderful Life" gets shown dozens of times every Christmas. It is an iconic film. Its theme is how the Depression impacts a small town with the hero being the community minded George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) and the villain of the piece being the profits before all else banker Henry Potter. It is a useful shorthand tool for expressing a point of view that I assumed most who post here would recognize.

Posted by: Chris White on November 17, 2008 11:08 AM

"He loves Woodstock, the geography of the town, that is; he just can't stand the people who live there."

If I could only fumigate the entire Hudson Valley with some kind of commie disinfectant... what an improvement that would be!

The Hudson Valley's history, unfortunately, is one of sedition and religious cults. This is one of the only areas of the country that was solidly against the American Revolution. The Rajneeshies were big here, too. Every loony, stupid cult that you can imagine thrives in Woodstock. Check out the Farm Animal Sanctuary for the current winner of the looniest fools in Woodstock contest.

There are some good people in Woodstock... namely the good old boys and a lot of the old timers, and many of the musicians. The hippie trash is a colorful show for the tourists and a blight upon the community. I'd rather import Mexicans. Filipinos would be a tremendous improvement, but they want jobs. Out local leftists are busy trying to destroy every business in the area... except for those that are sainted.

If only I had a spray disinfectant that would rid the Hudson Valley of this vermin... what a wonder that would be!

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 17, 2008 12:01 PM

Chris, but I was courteous to you! I didn't argue with your guiding principles - I believe you're entitled to have your own; I assume as an adult you have your own reasons for those principles. Courtesy dictates that I won't attempt to lecture you or engage in debate of your beliefs; you're not a malleable teenager with no experience.
But I am free to do evaluations. And I do find it pitiful when an educated person with good earning potential leads a lifestyle guided by guilt (non-existent, in my view), subjecting oneself and one's family to an artificial poverty. Your choice, of course.

Your description of the movie would certainly turned me off of watching it (it's like poor version of a Soviet propaganda flicks) if I saw it in TV guide during holidays. I prefer "The Christmas story", it only gets better year after year.
[and it has an added bonus of me and my son trading quotes. "No turkey!",- I start. "No turkey sandwiches!"-, he picks up. "Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra!"...etc].

About people helping each other. I think we all had the taste of how it'll be on comparative examples of how population behaved during hurricanes. Katrina - in NO and Ike - in Tx. Katrina was a disaster, exactly because residents of New Orlean were sitting there helplessly waiting for their government to take care of them, while Texans (devasted not less than NO) took the matter in their own hands.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 17, 2008 1:31 PM

Oh jesus, now Katrina is the fault of the New Orleans residents! A chilling pronouncement.

But Tatyana WAS rude, and contemptuous, not courteous. Again, this is like a Mad Tea Party where people can say that up means down.

When someone gratuitously attacks and mocks another person's way of life, it is called "intolerance" not to mention "arrogance."

Chris White is the 2BH token Liberal, hated for shopping at Whole Foods. ST is the token Enraged Contrarian who hates everything but his sainted wife, Tatyana is the Self-important Emigre, and I personally am the Devil.

Patrick, what is your role again??

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 17, 2008 6:08 PM

La lupa: Patrick, what is your role again??

Why, to be the voice of reason, of course. What other role could I possibly have here?

No, wait...I know...I can be everyone's spiritual mentor. I can ment their spirits. So, Sister, wolfiest wolf of my heart, want to get some menting? I'd love to give you some...

P.S. I still want you. I'm a relative Internet recluse these days, but my admiration for you, and your body, has never changed. That pic of you in the little wee dress. Still gets me going.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 17, 2008 6:45 PM

Hahaha, oh right, Voice of Reason. (and thanks for the hard-on!) xo

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 17, 2008 8:51 PM

This place has gotten really fuckin' weird.

Posted by: i, squub on November 17, 2008 9:53 PM

Well, squub, I think you might just need some menting yourself.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 18, 2008 2:42 PM

Nosir. I'm all mented up just now. Thanks anyway.

Posted by: i, squub on November 18, 2008 6:07 PM

I'm going to have to go to a cheaper class of hookers. I hear the Haitians are pretty good for the money, and don't make you wear condoms, either.

Posted by: Bilwick1 on November 19, 2008 1:11 PM

Cancelling cable, although, I'm pretty sick of television anyway, money or no money issues.

I try to brown bag it, too, but again, hospital cafeterias don't make that a burden.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm in fearful mood whatever goes on. That's just my MO.

Posted by: MD on November 20, 2008 10:23 AM

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