Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meander with the Obama Family's Official Portrait

Whenever I get down about the country, I think how far we have come after the past eight years.

39 comments:

  1. NY, picked up the Coll book -- I can see why it's taking you awhile to get through it. It's huge!

    Speaking of big books, I'm still listening to the Hemingses of Monticello, an amazing book. It has really changed my impression (both good and bad) of Jefferson. I didn't think that was possible at this point.

    In the meantime, though, am reading Crisis of the Old Order, which is also good. And entirely relevant. Reading about all the disappointed young people in the Wilson administration makes me wonder how all the young people in the Obama administration are doing right now.

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  2. Thanks so much for the portrait and the thought about it, you're what people I grew up with would call a blessing. (Sometimes my hopeless secularity deprives me of language and expressions that are true beyond their context.)

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  3. Very nice photo. Such a relaxed feeling. Yet, I imagine the Repugs will jump on this too.

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  4. Thanks, NY. I remember that feeling when he was elected that we would have a family living in _our_ house that we (or at least I) could be really proud of. My guess is that's how many felt when the Kennedys moved in.

    Gintaras, they might be able to say "no" to this yet since the photo was taken by that bankrupt pinko lesbian celebrity photographer, Annie Leibovitz.

    And what a perfect portrait of them. I still have a glimmer of hope, particularly since there's talk of resurrecting the pubic option and I even hope that Obama may do the right thing in Afghanistan yet.

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  5. In a total meander, the other day I attended a tribute to a friend of mine who died this time last year (Jim Crumley). Several writers spoke, including the guy who wrote Six Days of the Condor (who is from Montana!), the guy who writes The Wire -- some t.v. show -- and Dennis Lehane, who wrote Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Not my kind of books, but he was so impressive that I'm going to pick up one of his other books which may be closer to my kind of reading -- The Given Day. I hope it's as smart as he obviously is.

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  6. The Wire is a pretty good tv show. Well worth checking out. NYT will tell you all about it.

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  7. I've been watching "Little Dorrit" (Dickens) on DVD and have one more disc to go through netflix. There is a banker in it, Mr. Merdle, that reminds me how relevant Dickens is to the 20th and 21st centuries. I've started reading the book (Little Dorrit) but am far behind what I've watched on dvd. It was on PBS Masterpiece earlier in the year and later won several Emmy Awards.

    This week I also read a book by Edward C. Patterson titled "Surviving an American Gulag" about his experience in a Special Training Unit in Ft. Benning, GA in 1967. It's written in 3rd person with renaming of the characters, including himself. The special training unit was for men who couldn't make it through basic for one reason or other. In his case he was very overweight and couldn't cut the physical training until he managed it in special training. Didn't know at the time that he was gay but the people who put him into the unit suspected that he was.

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  8. A lot of these mystery writers go on to write for these big "mystery" series. I don't know the Wire, but they did a special session with Pelecanos on it this weekend, so I assumed it was one of the big ones.

    Another friend of Crumley's who wasn't there -- Robert Ward -- used to write for Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. He got his Hollywood writing jobs after writing what I thought was a really tough but great novel, Red Baker.

    I talked to another writer yesterday who has read all of Lehane's books. He said they are above and beyond the genre. I look forward to reading his latest one.

    Crumley walked on the wild side. His books -- particularly Last Good Kiss -- apparently had a huge impact on these writers. I think John is a Crumley fan.

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  9. Marti, it's been awhile but I think David Lodge wrote the screenplay for Little Dorrit. I'm pretty sure this is the Dickens that he thinks highly of and feels that it has been ignored.

    I have to admit, I've never read any Dickens. Or if I did when I was younger, I don't remember them. But reading Frank Rich on the "balloon boy" family, makes me realize that we are in those Victorian era times when people will do desperate (or bizarre) things to stay afloat as it were. Heck, I was actually looking for a job after 22 years of winging it. Now that's desperate! Fortunately, the Forest Service came along before I had to accept one of them.

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  10. I have that BBC series -- maybe I'll watch them this winter.

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  11. Now's the time to write to your Senators telling them to support a strong public option for all Americans, not just for members of Congress. They need to hear from all of us.

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  12. This Little Dorrit is an Andrew Davies adaptation.

    www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/littledorrit/

    I read one of the popular Dickens classics in high school. I think it was Great Expectations. Never really got it (except for A Christmas Carol) until I read Bleak House while seeing it on PBS about 1985.

    I love the 1951 Scrooge with Alastair Sim and watched it each year since the late 1950s. I only noticed the merger/acquisition aspect in it . . . it just hit me when I watched it in mid-1980s. Marley and Scrooge on one side of the table. Scrooge sits back in his chair and smiles as they buy out the company.

    Thank goodness we do not have the debtors' prisons and workhouses! I have no debt, but I need to find a job. I'm not feeling motivated. Worked for 34 years straight.

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  13. Just found out through the PBS website that the debtors prison system in England ended not to help the debtors but to help the creditors.

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  14. After liking Dickens' Bleak House so much in the 1980s, I thought I'd plunge into his other books. Can't remember which one I started next, but I read less than half and gave up on Dickens for a while. Have to be in the right mood. I was interested with Little Dorrit to fill in the gaps.

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  15. "....the debtors prison system in England ended not to help the debtors but to help the creditors."

    Like they did the bankruptcy laws in this country while sending out more and more credit card applications.

    Good luck with the job hunt, Marti. I'm much more productive working for myself, and love the work, but that almost came to a screeching halt with the economy. Everyone cut back. Fortunately I'm okay for now. I took a big cut in my hourly rate, but it's the biggest overall contract I've ever had so it's worth it. And I'll soon be an expert in forest fire history which sort of ties in with my other interests.

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  16. Thanks, Avrds. I'll admit that I haven't done much pavement pounding beyond interviewing last June for an on-call temp so-called position and taking tests at an agency the same day. After the interview, I realized that it was in some ways degrading and decided to stay off for the summer. Thought I was going to seriously look in the Fall but there isn't much and nothing on the 2nd shift. So I'm just not motivated but should get started soon.

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  17. Found this in Twitter. The link is to David Sirota's interview with Ed Nixon, youngest brother of President Dick. The mp3 continues after that with Sirota on the radio, but the beginning of it is the interview.

    DAVID SIROTA: Listen to my interview with President Nixon's brother - specifically, his candid comments about the "Southern Strategy" http://bit.ly/1KOWNM

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  18. " the debtors prison system in England ended not to help the debtors but to help the creditors."
    Peter Carey's "Jack Maggs" is an homage to Dickens, debtor's prison, in particular.

    http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Maggs-Peter-Carey/dp/0571193773/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256616207&sr=1-10

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  19. NYT, thanks and I just looked it up. He's the author of Oscar and Lucinda. Haven't read it but saw the film based on it.

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  20. So tell me, marti, why all the sudden interest in debtors' prisons?

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  21. Agreed re Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" book but I still thought the movie was mighty fine. I should thank the old nyt forum for putting me onto Carey with "True History of the Kelly Gang". One of his that disappointed was "My Life As A Fake" but I'll likely try others.

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  22. NY, I really liked the movie, too.

    As for debtor prisons, Gintaras, you've been away from the US for too long. We're all thinking about debtor prisons these days. Obama needs to withdraw from Afghanistan and declare war on the economy before the entire ship of state sinks.

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  23. Things are pretty bleak over here as well. The contstruction industry took a very hard hit this past year and if it wasn't for EU development funds my wife and I wouldn't have any work at the moment. But, yes, I have much sympathy for the situation in the US, as it affects persons I know.

    I think Obama has done a pretty good job dealing with the domestic situation, but it takes more than 9 months to reverse the losses created by the failed Bush administration.

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  24. What amazes me is that reading Schlesinger we've been down that same road before and yet even the people in power -- like Paulson -- didn't seem to understand what was happening. I can see them doing it deliberately (sort of take the money and run) but I don't understand their being blindsided by it. Surely they are not that inept.

    That said, Peggy Noonan apparently described GW as the bird in a cuckoo clock making routine but meaningless appearances from time to time that no one paid any attention to.

    It was interesting to read that, off the record at the time, Paulson believed like Krugman what they were doing wasn't going to be enough. But he couldn't say that publicly.

    I still think Obama needs to declare war on the economy and put the resources behind that declaration.

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  25. The first thing I'd like to see someone do is talk about the real unemployment rate. According to the September Bureau of Labor Statistics report, there are now about 2.2 million people who are termed "marginally attached to the labor force" because they have pretty much given up looking for work. That number is 615,000 higher than it was in September of last year. That puts the national unemployment figure at 17.3 million, not 15.1. Then there are the 9.2 million people working part-time for economic reasons, which is nice way of saying because they can't find full-time work. When you add that to the 17.1 you get 26.3 million, or approximately 17%.

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  26. I meant, When you add that to 17.3 you get 26.5 million, or approximately 17%.

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  27. "Obama needs to withdraw from Afghanistan and declare war on the economy..." I heard someone ask what happens to the unemployment rate when all those serving abroad deploy home and look for work. Blackwater? Halliburton? Airport and other security jobs?

    Of course, the more that come back injured, the more work healthcare workers will have--there's already a shortage of them, and a shortage of people to teach those who would like to be them.

    If this seems cynical, keep in mind it comes from one whose work in criminal law knows no recession, indeed may increase in hard time.

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  28. I finally got around to watching Charlie Wilson's War tonight. Having just read the opening of Ghost Wars, I realized Wilson's weapons were the ones that the US wanted to buy back.

    I read somewhere that the movie didn't get all of the history right, but my guess is there's enough truth there to show what a mess that entire situation was and still is.

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  29. It seems like CNN is going the way of Fox. To see the feature news shows focusing so much on Republicans, like Boehner's alleged GOP Health Care Plan on Carville and Matalin's "State of the Union" today is enough to make me sick. Why they even entertain these GOP'ers at this point, I don't know. They clearly have chosen to divorce themselves from the political mainstream.

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  30. I gave up on CNN during the election. Bill Bennett was one of their regular contributors and he always referred to Barack HUSSEIN Obama whenever he mentioned his name. I was still a John Edwards supporter at that time but found him so offensive that I refused to watch the network anymore.

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  31. Bennett is hard to take. Hard to imagine he was once part of the counter culture.

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  32. Sneaking one last meander in under the Obamas, I went to Helena on Friday to pick up Metcalf's papers related to the fire research I'm doing.

    Am reaching the end of The Hemingses on CD (all 25 of them -- but well worth it). I was actually taken aback and quite moved that James killed himself and saddened that she was unable to give much detail about his situation, other than the general speculation that he had a serious drinking problem.

    And he out maneuvered himself trying to get Jefferson to condescend to write to him requesting that he come to Washington to be the President's House chef rather than send for him as if he were still enslaved.

    It's amazing to think of what he accomplished in his life -- a master chef, spoke fluent French, had traveled the world. He had to have been one of the most accomplished African Americans in the country at the time.

    Of course the pro-slavery folks could point to his death as proof that he was better off as a slave.

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  33. I also have been pulling materials from Mike Mansfield's papers and was inadvertently given a box of files on the atomic bomb. Felt like I'd stumbled into a box of pornography.

    I have a German book on Hitler with hand-colored photographs that feels the same way. I have to figure out a way to sell that thing.

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  34. A box of files on the atomic bomb?!? OMG!

    Pardon me, but the prospect of finding original materials would have me in a dither.

    (I still recall a history prof. from Greece who waited many years until one of the colonels in power in the '60s--recall the terrific Costa-Gavras movie "Z"--finally died and he was allowed to go through his papers. It even surpassed getting access to the Vatican's trove of porn (not atomic bomb porn).

    Another prof., and a good friend of the one from Greece, worked in connection with Hebrew Univ. tracking down Nazis-in-exile in Argentina. And they say history is dull.

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  35. I don't know where else to put this, but I've gone back to "Ghost Wars" after a break when I was in writing mode--statements of case/facts for a brief can resemble a research paper because you must cite to the record/trial transcript for each assertion you make.

    Before the hiatus, I'd reached and dragged what my French student daughter calls my "derriere triste" past the point of losing hope that terrorism would be treated as a non-state criminal endeavor, depriving the "cause" of political legitimacy. Sigh and double-sign...

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  36. "double-sigh," that should be...

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  37. I opened the file box expecting one thing, and found another. The feeling was immediate revulsion and I closed the box and put it away. Someone could have a great time writing about that if they had the stomach for it. It looked stuffed with correspondence, reports, etc.

    As for Ghost Wars, I've only read the first two chapters but it is already clear that this is one of those enormous messes we've been sucked into that won't easily let us go. The scene in Charlie Wilson's War where they finally admit that the US strategy is to help the Afghans only enough to drain the Russians comes to mind.

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  38. And now it appears they are readying us for sending 30,000 more men and women over there. When will they ever learn?

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