Two videoslaps.

November 7, 2008

This is me, I admit it: The Onion reports: Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Utterly Empty Their Lives Are.

And this other one is for Alison and the rest of the TDS kids, so unless you’re a total Broadway-slash-Uta Hagen stylez nerd, don’t bother. But I like it for several reasons, most of all because it’s so obviously the fourth-year theatre school class at some university theatre program in a Midwestern state, and if videocameras had existed back when I was a lad, my class would so totally have done this. Probably in two versions so we could double-cast the leads. In this case, I particularly like the choice of casting McCain as Javert and Palin as the Thenardiers. And I like seeing the one ambiguously-ethnic girl with the belty voice as Eponine (I identify with her!). Also, don’t Marius, Cosette, and Eponine remind you of Jim, Pam, and Karen Fillipelli from The Office? And most of all, I like the fact that there was no black dude in that class to play Obama/Valjean. (Us neither! It would have been Eric J Rose, or maybe Patrick Young in politically-incorrect makeup for a stunning faculty cameo!)

Okay, theatre-school digression over.
…For now.


Newsweek’s Special Election Report

November 6, 2008

Newsweek has released highlights of its Special Election Project:

“How He Did It, 2008” is an inside, behind-the-scenes account of the presidential election produced by a special team of reporters working for more than a year on an embargoed basis and detached from the weekly magazine and Everything the project team learns is kept confidential until the day after the polls close.

The report includes some super-juicy reading:

On Palin’s extravagant wardrobe:

One aide estimated that she spent “tens of thousands” more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast”.

The following tidbit may explain why McCain finally started referring to Obama as “a decent Christian American” in his speeches:

McCain was dumbfounded when Congressman John Lewis, a civil-rights hero, issued a press release comparing the GOP nominee with former Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist infamous for stirring racial fears. McCain had devoted a chapter to Lewis in one of his books, “Why Courage Matters,” and had so admired Lewis that he had once taken his children to meet him.

Obama was nervous about the debates:

When he was preparing for [the debates] during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’

Stars! They’re just like us!
I can’t wait to read the whole thing.
Merci, Hillery, pour le tip.

Election day messages from Obama & McCain

November 4, 2008

I’m on the mailing lists for both US presidential campaigns. In the last hours leading up to election day, both campaigns are understandably reaching out to spread the message one more time. The messages have the same goal, but they’re framed quite differently.

From the Obama camp:
A heartfelt, sweeping message. A simple and moving 2-minute video: images of Obama supporters all over America. It’s a montage of people of all ages & races, smiling, volunteering, waving and cheering:




The video is carried by Obama’s ringing voice, sincerely thanking Americans for standing behind him and humbly asking them to cap it off with one last push. There’s even a gorgeous image of him speaking to a huge crowd in the rain:


The man is a prince, I’m not kidding. Watching this I lost my breath a little. It’s online here.

From the McCain camp:
Ummm. A script to use when phoning people to convince them to vote… and a list of 10 people’s names and home phone numbers. Not kidding. McCain & Palin emailed me- and remember, I’m a stranger from another country, and I am not a registered US voter, let alone a registered Republican- but nonetheless, they emailed me a list of people’s names and their families’ home phone numbers.

Who’s to say I’m not gonna call them all night & breathe heavy into their ears? What’s to stop me from threatening or intimidating them? Way to go, McCain. Thanks to you, half the population of Ohio’s gonna be asked tonight if their refrigerators are running.

McCain emailed people's names & numbers to a foreigner like me.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: McCain emailed people's names & numbers to a foreigner like me.

What else is there to say?

One campaign makes you feel so amazing your heart tries to pump its way out your ribcage with love.

The other begs you to do some last-minute election night drunk-dialing.

Which one would you like to see in charge?

Oh I hope I hope I hope I hope.


Colin Powell endorses Obama – and finally raises the Muslim question properly.

October 20, 2008

Colin Powell endorsed Obama. Most news outlets I’ve seen are excerpting only a few seconds of video, essentially the last 30 seconds of Powell’s endorsement. But you should watch the whole thing, because finally, finally, someone is sticking up for Muslims.

I didn’t really have an opinion on Powell until this- but he just made me like him a whole lot. He raised two important points, and chastized Team McCain on their xenophobia:

1. Obama is not Muslim.
Hillary “As far as I know” Clinton should take notes.

2. But more importantly, it shouldn’t matter even if he was.
The America Americans are proud of is one in which it wouldn’t matter. The America Americans are proud of is one in which little Muslim-American kids should be able to envision themselves growing up and running for President, and shame on the McCain camp for encouraging any other point of view.

Powell’s seven-minute endorsement basically synthesizes every jangly, frazzled, emphatic opinion I hold about this election, emulsifying it into something warm and smooth and thoughtful. It’s a silken position purée, an intellectual political velouté, an analytical fricasée of punditry, and well worth listening to. It’s here.

Thanks to dziga for the tip.

NYTimes’ David Brooks hopes you’ll agree Obama is “dull” and a “machine”.

October 17, 2008

Today I read David Brooks’ New York Times article about Barack Obama: Thinking About Obama. NYT summary: “Through some deep, bottom-up process, Barack Obama has developed strategies for equanimity, and now he’s become a homeostasis machine.”

Brooks’ article is an utterly disingenuous piece
which pretends to be a grudging endorsement of Obama, but in fact is carefully designed to shake the reader’s confidence in him. Of course Brooks is entitled to any opinon, but good newspaper writing should rely on facts and observations, not sneaky insinuations and coded wordplay. Look at the way Brooks has constructed his sentences.

Obama’s positive qualities are described in negative terms
: “There hasn’t been a moment when he has displayed rage, resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, tears, ecstasy, self-pity or impulsiveness.” Well if he hasn’t displayed any of these traits, why list them all?

“There hasn’t been a moment in which he has publicly lost his self-control.” Why not state these “compliments” in positive terms? It would be more concise and more correct. “Obama continually displays calm, gracious, and rational behaviors.” “Obama’s self-control is a constant”.

Why does Brooks take the long route- why bother to list all those traits that Obama doesn’t display? Because Brooks is deliberately associating Obama with this list of negative comments– he wants you to read those sentences and hear the negatives buried inside them: “he has displayed rage, resentment, etc., etc.” It’s a sneaky and dishonorable way to write.

Without exception, Brooks’ compliments to Obama’s disposition are backhanded: “It’s not willpower or self-discipline he shows as much as an organized unconscious.” What does that even mean? How could an unconscious be organized?

“Through some deep, bottom-up process… he’s become a homeostasis machine.” Oh, so he’s actually a robot? That explains it. While McCain is “an experienced old hand”, Obama’s not skillful or intelligent, he’s just a machine created unconsciously. Sounds a little sinister, no?

Brooks insults the reader by burying nasty comments in a screed masquerading as a compliment. This article is a modern version of Shakespeare’s masterful dramatization of the insinuating political speech, “Brutus is an honorable man”.

Brooks saves his most devious phrasing for his final two paragraphs, predicting the good and bad hypothetical outcomes of an Obama presidency.

Notice that the good outcomes are only described in hypothetical terms
(emphases mine): “Obama could be a great president… would be untroubled… would see reality… could gather the smartest minds, and… could give them free rein.” We are reminded of his “youth” and “subtlety” as we are invited to “imagine him at the cabinet table.” Yes, we “could” probably “imagine” all that. But wait, don’t stop there, there’s more.

Now let’s consider the grim alternative. By choosing this as his concluding scenario, Brooks not-subtly endorses it as his prediction (it’s a well-known fact that the public is likelier to agree with whichever argument is presented last).

Note that after a flimsy opening clause, Brooks’ negative conjectures are phrased in certain terms, not hypothetically: “It could be that Obama will be an observer, not a leader… he will stand back. Congressional leaders… will just go their own way… He will be passive and ineffectual. Lack of passion will produce lack of courage… greatness will give way to anti-climax.” Hey, don’t hold back! Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Brooks.

Brooks’ initial tone of grudging support has given way to Brooks’ ugly attempt at neuro-linguistic suggestion. All the good stuff “could” happen, but all the bad stuff “will” happen. And then the laughable coup-de-grace; Obama is “dull”.

I like the dull one better, actually.

I like the dull one better, actually.

In comparison to McCain’s nasty temper and lolling tongue, and beside Sarah Palin’s appalling lack of knowledge and shameless pandering to the xenophobic Republican extremists who scream “terrorist” when they hear Obama’s name at a rally- well, sure, the Obama-Biden ticket gives us less fodder for parody.

Brooks’ emphatic last word calls this dull, in hopes that you’ll agree. But when I see Obama’s self-control, restraint, warmth, grace, analytical skill, and most of all his genuine interest in open dialogue, I don’t see dull at all. Quite the opposite- I realize that Barack Obama is by far the most exciting political figure I’ve ever seen.