Archive for the ‘performing art’ Category

A memorable traditionalist? On Obama’s inaugural

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The file left, on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, by former President George Bush for the forty-fourth president, Barack H. Obama – courtesy of the Boston Globe

Some have said they’ve been disappointed by Obama’s inaugural speech, saying it lacked a memorable poetic line in the tradition of FDR or JFK.  What?!  After a mere sixteen hours, they think they are in a position to evaluate the memorable-ness of a speech? Come on!  FDR died almost fifty-four years ago, and JFK just over forty-five years ago: it takes time for history to define what might or might not emerge as memorable.  For goodness sake.  (For what it’s worth, my money is on his offer of friendship to leaders around the world who will renounce violence and corruption in favour of mutual respect –

[…] we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.)

Here is an excerpt from Andrew Sullivan’s take

Mulling over the address yesterday, I felt in retrospect that the restraint and classical tropes of the speech were deliberate and wise. From the moment he gave his election night victory speech, Obama has been signaling great caution in the face of immense challenges. The tone is humble. We know he can rally vast crowds to heights of emotion; which is why his decision to calm those feelings and to engage his opponents and to warn of impending challenges is all the more impressive. He’s a man, it seems to me, who knows the difference between bravado and strength, between an adolescent “decider” and a mature president, between an insecure brittleness masquerading as power, and the genuine authority a real president commands. He presides. He can set a direction and a mood, but he invites the rest of us to move the ball forward: in a constitutional democracy, we are always the ones we’ve been waiting for.

He is not a messiah and does not act or speak like one. He’s a traditionalist in many ways.

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Choosing a better history: a big, big day

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This quote has been attributed, correctly or no, to Nelson Mandela –

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Go vote, America, and choose wisely.

Why he’s winning: leadership, judgement, and stonking oratory

Saturday, October 25, 2008

For some, including for Time magazine’s Joe Klein, Obama’s rise and campaign management has been bewildering.  Klein’s recent article captures beautifully the personal qualities and decisions made that have generated such momentum for the Obama campaign.  For example, Obama’s policy of ‘no dramatics’ within his campaign team paid off in the primaries against Clinton.  And his instinctive judgement calls as to when leadership could most effectively be deployed enabled him to reflect on the issue of race in America, and neutralise Jeremiah Wright, in a speech followed by a press conference; and, it enabled him to keep his cool during the banking bail-out fiasco.

Here’s how Klein finishes up

If an Apollo project to create a new alternative-energy economy is his highest priority, as he told me, why hasn’t he given a major speech about it during the fall campaign? Why hasn’t he begun to mobilize the nation for this next big mission? In part, I suppose, because campaigns are about firefighting — and this campaign in particular has been about “the fierce urgency of now,” to use one of Obama’s favorite phrases by Martin Luther King Jr., because of the fears raised by the financial crisis and because of the desperate, ferocious attacks launched by his opponent.

If he wins, however, there will be a different challenge. He will have to return, full force, to the inspiration business. The public will have to be mobilized to face the fearsome new economic realities. He will also have to deliver bad news, to transform crises into “teachable moments.” He will have to effect a major change in our political life: to get the public and the media to think about long-term solutions rather than short-term balms. Obama has given some strong indications that he will be able to do this, having remained levelheaded through a season of political insanity. His has been a remarkable campaign, as smoothly run as any I’ve seen in nine presidential cycles. Even more remarkable, Obama has made race — that perennial, gaping American wound — an afterthought. He has done this by introducing a quality to American politics that we haven’t seen in quite some time: maturity. He is undoubtedly as ego-driven as everyone else seeking the highest office — perhaps more so, given his race, his name and his lack of experience. But he has not been childishly egomaniacal, in contrast to our recent baby-boomer Presidents — or petulant, in contrast to his opponent. He does not seem needy. He seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision.

Bingo.

‘A Brighter Day Will Come’

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here’s another stunner of a non-Obama-Campaign, campaigning video –

What was that I said?

Brilliant – Barack get’s rolled in the right place

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

– the Replubican Convention. Enjoy!

The Prime Minister sticking to his promises?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From today’s news –

A campaigner against Heathrow Airport’s third runway has attempted to glue himself to Gordon Brown at a Downing Street reception.

Literally.

On the urbanisation (and significance of) birdsong

Monday, June 30, 2008

From the Guardian

New research shows that male birds trying to compete with traffic and city sounds are singing louder and at increasingly higher frequencies, which could harm their vocal cords and hearing. As a result their songs are becoming more chaotic and less diverse, which makes them less attractive to female birds and damages their mating opportunities. Some birds, including robins, are choosing to sing at night instead of during the day. This not only makes them more vulnerable to attack but, because the birds need to be awake in daylight hours to feed, creates stress and exhaustion.

‘The difference between urban and rural birdsong is becoming so great that the two groups could now be unable to communicate, leading to inbreeding and a weakened gene pool,’ said Dr Sue Anne Zollinger, of the University of St Andrews, who has studied the impact of environmental noise on birds’ song learning and development. A group sharing a small gene pool, said Zollinger, was less likely to be able to adapt quickly to new diseases or environmental pressures, putting them at risk of being wiped out.

[…]

Mark Constantine, author of The Sound Approach to Birding and founder of the Sound Approach database, the fourth-largest natural sound archive in the world, said: ‘Birdsong is used as an indicator of quality of life and has been proved to reduce our blood pressure. When we live in the centre of large, urban areas, we get more stressed and it’s extremely good to have birdsong around us. The impact on humans of birdsong is massive. It harms us, as well as the birds, if their songs become simpler, shriller and louder.’

Having recently moved to a rural village from London, it’s not only the birdsong that’s different (it’s more varied, given the greater variety of birds – which is nourishing). The pace of life is noticeably different, of course.  But it’s also, I’m sure, people’s capacity to perceive the variety in their surroundings; how much of urban life is given over to an ever-narrowing focus on human fashions, technologies, and discourses, marginalising the ‘more-than-human’ world? And marginalisation of the more-than-human world tends to equate with a high environmental impact: as Lucy Siegle pointed out in a parallel article, urban noise is highly correlated with our so-called ‘carbon intensity’.

Gooooooooooaaaaaaallllll!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On this evening, when Spain won their first major soccer title for 44 years, here’s a fun video to celebrate –

Now you know how many will feel when Obama is elected President.

Storytelling is the new politics

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Previously I wrote about the emergence of the new politics courtesy of the US presidential election. Here is another example of what’s happening. The Obama campaign is doing something clever: having ordinary folk introduce the candidate by telling their personal story. This is a significant change when compared with the traditional approach of having someone famous, established or important introducing the candidate. I love this, from the Obama website