Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

This past Saturday was the annual Kent State Folk Festival day of workshops
at the Student Union. Actually, there are no students present at these workshops because they are all holed up in their dorms Twittering with their friends in the next room, or glued to their computers. Another reason is that most students these days have to work in order to pay for the outrageous costs of higher education. The folk festival was started 40 years ago by students, and although they are no longer a part of it, it still goes on, supported by old folkies and the Kent community.

I remember going to the very first one, which was held in a classroom building. I took my guitar with me, hoping to learn a few new licks. At the time, I was mostly playing tunes from the Burl Ives and the Weaver's Songbooks and mournful ballads like "Lord Randall." I felt very old (I was 41) and all the participants were, like, 20 or so. Kent was a hot spot for folk music, along with a magnet for rock groups in the bars downtown. Some of the kids I met at that first folk festival kept returning over the years until they were way older than I had been at the beginning of it. Unfortunately, if their kids came to the university, they did not carry on their parents' love of folk music.

Its glory days are over, since everything is scaled down and the top performers now come in for one night only, playing at the theater downtown over a week of concerts. There are no more Andean pipers, or Appalachian balladeers, or old Alabama shape note singers doing the workshops. The Saturday workshops now feature area musicians, all of whom are worth hearing and watching, but they are people you've seen a lot of times already. There was a fine Irish group, but my favorite was a group playing choro music from Brazil, beautiful dance music, European with an African beat.

Along with its being good day for music, it's an even better day for people watching, since these folks come out of the woods or wherever they live during the rest of the year. I'm not sure where they find the clothes they wear, but they are always interesting. The couple pictured were there last year, and I looked for them this year, but they might have been in disguised as suburbanites and I just could have missed them. Fedoras, worn with long hair, were big this year among the younger men. Ugg boots were also prominently displayed, even though the weather was quite mild.

This used to be held in February, which was a perfect month for it in terms of fighting cabin fever, but it was also a bad time for traveling, so they moved it to the fall - and then ran out of money to bring in acts who would have had to travel, thus creating a perfect Catch 22.
Time to Stop
I think it's time to lay off the Obama cult. Last week's New Yorker cover is the kind of thing I am talking about: a picture of the Lincoln Memorial, and the "O" in the title is hovering over it in silver. The new Newsweek has a picture of Lincoln looming over Obama. Editorial headlines proclaim the hope that Obama will save the country. Editorial writers I admire have joined in the Obama worship, as if he is the second coming.

I realize that we have just been through an 8 year "dark night of the soul", if I may paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, but this is too much to put on the shoulders of one man. Along with everyone I have great admiration and high hopes for this new president. However, it seems to me that we are setting him up for failure if we have such unrealistic expectations of what he can achieve. I think everyone just needs to calm down and get real. He is not the Messiah. He is not Lincoln. He is an intelligent, responsible, good man whom we all need to support in any way we can, but this adulation is getting ridiculous.


Nancy Near Philadelphia said...

This "Time to Stop" piece is very well done. Talk about setting up unreachable expectations. Sheesh.

Guenveur in Kent said...

Thanks, Nancy. I find this whole thing a bit scary adn I imagine that Sen. Obama does,too.

SallyB said...

Well, Obama has repeatedly said that he isn't the one making history, WE ARE. He isn't the one who will save the country (at least not all by himself), WE WILL. Folks need to remember that just because the election is over does not mean that we should stop our activism. On the contrary, it means that we'll have to step it up a notch and do even MORE to help Obama & Co. save this nation. After all, more than once he reminded us that this is a nation OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE. (Yeah, that does sound mighty.....*ahem*....socialist, doesn't it?)