Thursday, September 25, 2008

Time Out

I'm giving The Red Electric (and you and me) a rest for a few days.

No doubt I'll have something to write about when I crank it up again.

Until then, be well.


The Rock and the Shock Jock

I hate to say it because campaigns should be about issues, but this election is coming down to a choice between a political shock jock and rock-solid leader.

Any doubt which is which?

Just in case you haven't been paying attention ....

First McCain put Sarah Palin, a political T-baller, in the on-deck circle of the World Series; then he called for the firing of Christopher Cox, the SEC chair; then he blamed the economic meltdown on, of all people, Barack Obama (presumably the SEC chair was a co-conspirator); and now he has walked away from a nationally televised presidential debate just when the nation needs it most.

What next?

If you can believe the polls (that’s a big “if”), the electorate is finally getting the message: In unstable times, the last thing we need is an unpredictable, loose-cannon president.

Voters are looking for rock-solid answers and leadership, and Obama, especially compared to McCain, is emerging as an anchor of stability and sanity in these turbulent times.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A "spectacular" agreement

Earlier this week Gov. Sarah "Heartbeat" Palin and Dr. Henry Kissinger, legendary Vietnam and Cambodia expert, agreed to disagree on whose glasses frames were sexier.

Kissinger also pointed out to Palin where Vietnam and Cambodia are and noted they can't be seen from Alaska, even on a clear day.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A gallery of “Nows”

Weary of the financial crisis, the drumbeat of campaign news, the latest depressing poll results from Joplin and Fargo, and the most recent indignant Internet tract purporting to drive a stake into the evil hearts of McCain and Palin, I strode around the Fairmount Boulevard loop on this brilliant Indian summer afternoon.

I walked the tree-canopied, three-plus miles with the city at my feet, a compact camera in hand and an Eckhart Tolle audio book murmuring in my ear, urging me to BE IN THE NOW.

I don’t know whether taking photographs gets me into the “now” or not. The “now” of composing, focusing and snapping seem eroded by the prospect of downloading, viewing, cropping and sharing.

That said, I came back with a few select “nows” for you.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Pandora's Juke Box on line

The Pandora musical web site is a music lover’s dream come true. Which probably means that it's probably everyone's dream come true.

But the dream is only possible if you bring it into your life. Allow me to share ....

I’m listening to jazz pianist Gene Harris on Pandora as I write this. Harris was a joy. (Sadly, he is “late” as an Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswanan character might say. I’ve written about Harris before. I even mark the Summer Solstice by listening to his outrageous version of Summertime.

Anyway, on Pandora I’ve created a “Gene Harris radio station” on my page. When it’s on, Pandora keeps doling out tunes that are either by Harris or in the style of Harris. The site gives me the chance vote a thumbs up or thumbs down on everything played and adjusts selections according to my votes.

Right now, the on-line “station” is playing Harris doing “Blues March.” I know most of Gene’s stuff but for some reason his version of “Blues March” had escaped me. With the click of a box, I just gave it a thumbs up so it will pop up randomly again.

One of the features I like most about Pandora is that it will introduce me to artists and tunes that are similar to those I have approved of before. For instance, Pandora has now followed “Blues March” with Tommy Flannigan playing “Quietude.” I was vaguely aware of Flannigan. Now I’m being acquainted with him and can opt to have his music cycle on to the “Gene Harris radio station.”

There’s a lot more on Pandora. For instance, it’s telling me that if I like Harris and Flannigan, I might also like Oscar Peterson, Red Garland, the Marcus Shelby Trio, Dave McKenna and the Billy Mays Trio. I know three of those five and I do indeed like them. Peterson, also “late,” was a monster pianist. I made an “Oscar Peterson radio station” on my Pandora page before I made one for Harris.

And so it goes.

So I recommend checking out Pandora and running your own musical tastes through its magic. If you are like me, you will be enchanted.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Audacity of Barack Obama

Though Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” was published only three years ago, it gives no hint of the Illinois senator’s aspirations to be president of the United States.

At our book club last week we asked ourselves what happened between the date of publication and his declaring his candidacy.

In the book, author Obama worries at length about spending time away from his family. Life in the Senate, while challenging and productive, is insane. Flying back and forth between legislative business in Washington (to say nothing of trips abroad and to fundraisers) and “home” in Chicago is wearing. He openly misses his young daughters who know how to push his paternal buttons. Moments of privacy dwindle.

And this is the man who chooses to seek the presidency?

A future book will no doubt tell us why and what happened to his familial yearnings.

Obama is a compelling writer who is at his best recounting stories: A trip to Iraq, recollections of his Indonesian childhood, exchanges with constituents, his courtship of Michelle.

His analysis of issues is clear, thorough but always carefully nuanced. In his lawyerly way, he presents his opponents’ side persuasively and then neatly and surgically dissects their arguments. His positions seem crafted for the next campaign, as if he is wondering whether he can live with these indelible words.

I’m voting for Obama but I’m already prepared to be disappointed by an Obama administration. The reasons are all too transparent in this book. His analysis of how the Bush Administration chose to invade Iraq never mentions oil and the Bush/Cheney bond to the Saudi Royal family and to the oil industry. Instead Obama seems to buy into the notion that faulty intelligence was to blame for the invasion.

Such thinking is itself faulty intelligence, which is surprising from one so intelligent.

There were, as Obama points out, plenty of other threatening dictatorial regimes Bush could have overthrown. North Korea and Burma come to mind. But, strangely, none of those dictatorships float on a sea of black gold. The fact escapes the senator.

Then there’s the little matter of Afghanistan, the chest-pounder of Obama's presidential campaign and his rationale for increasing military spending. The main problem with Iraq, he laments, is that the insurgency/occupation has pinned down troops that are desperately needed in Afghanistan.

Before Obama is elected and starts moving the armed pawns and knights to the east, I’d like him to meet a few hundred thousand Russian veterans for a chat about Afghanistan, a quagmire that makes Iraq look like a sits bath.

The book also seems to be storing political chits for future use. Then again, perhaps Obama is simply being gracious. In any case, he lavishes praise on the lions of the Senate. Robert Bird, Richard Lugar and Ted Kennedy. Bill Clinton wins more than his share of kudos. There’s even a tip of the hat to one John McCain.

In retrospect, this is a campaign book without ever admitting it. In politics, timing is everything. Perhaps an admission that the White House was in Obama's plans for 2008 would have been premature.

As good as the book is, it is a better, more intriguing one because of when it was written and all that has happened since.

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