Monthly Archives: August 2008

John Kerry

Well, erm, I guess I’ve outed myself politically already so I might as well keep on going.  I wanted to post this speech because I thought it was the standout of the night, and I know the networks cut it off.  I thought more people should have a chance to see it.

I found it poignant that Kerry was able to unleash the full force of his passion and brilliance on behalf of Barack Obama in a way that he was never able to do for his own presidential candidacy. But maybe that’s what we should have expected from a man who won a silver and a bronze star for helping others, not thinking of himself. And isn’t thinking of and working for others before onesself the real mark of a hero?



securityYup, I was there. I’d never been to a big campaign rally before and I decided that, as an Illinois resident, yesterday might be my last chance. I’m glad I went. It was exciting, but even more than that, I’m glad I saw how the whole thing works. I’ll have a better idea now of just what goes into an event like that. First of all, the security. My heart sank when I saw the line to get in circling around and around many city blocks. But it moved very quickly, and the guards were both extremely efficient and extremely thorough getting us through the metal detectors and bag check. I finally understood just how hard it would be for someone with ill intent to get up to something at one of these rallies. And the snipers in the photo? Yeah. There was one guy on the roof right abut us though whose sole job was to spot people in the crowd who had collapsed and direct people to go help. With a crowd standing three hours and more in the hot sun with little water, that happened often.



speechesObama was low key and Biden was wonderful — impassioned, articulate (not to say clean), and a great wingman. But you can read about that elsewhere. Being in the crowd is such a different experience from seeing it on TV. First of all, you have no sense of how big the whole crowd really is. All you can see is your own tiny part of it. And there was a lot of booing when they talked abut Bush and McCain. Did that come through on TV? I never heard it before. You see how chants begin and spread through the crowd. But the most striking thing of all that I learned was that when you attend a rally like that, you’re not there to hear a speech and learn about a candidate (we could hear perfectly, though we couldn’t see much). The audience at a rally isn’t an audience at all. It is part of the spectacle, part of the performance for the real viewers, who are sitting at home. And we performed our hearts out.



michelleThank goodness for my little zoom lens or my photos would be even more pointless than they are now. But I had to post this one because you can see Michelle, and I <3 Michelle. We were hoping they’d walk down to our end of the stage, but they didn’t. The event started right on time and went very quickly. I think they knew they couldn’t leave all of out there in that heat for much longer.







signPerhaps the coolest thing about being there was I got to be one of the first in the country to get an Obama/Biden sign. They were still warm and the ink scent was strong when they pulled them out of boxes to pass them to us, literally hot off the press. We had dinner in Champaign, and you could tell which waiters had made the trip to Springfield by their sunburns. We had sunburns too, but those will fade. The sign is in my window.




Vicky Cristina Barcelona

It’s a light, empty, fun movie, worth it if you are looking for mindless summer fun. I also found it hilarious in ways I don’t believe the director planned. I think poor Mr. Allen learned everything he knows about Spain from the foyer of a luxury hotel and the back seat of a taxicab. And what Woody seems to have learned is that Barcelona is a lot like Los Angeles! People own handguns and drive around in massive silver SUVs and live in mansions, with pools, and invite people over to their fabulous modern kitchens with stainless steel appliances. Like, L.A., there are a lot of Spanish speakers around but it’s okay because they all speak English too. God forbid that in Catalunya they should speak, you know, Catalan. So it’s not surprising that when our heroines finally leave Barcelona (mild spoiler alert), they have experienced none of the personal epiphanies that are usually associated with the broadening effects of foreign travel. They never really left home.

Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

I finished this last night. I tried not to, I really did, because I knew that once I had turned the last page, I’d never experience the joy of reading this wonderful story for the first time ever again. But I couldn’t help myself, I had to keep reading, faster and faster…I had to know… And what a satisfying ending.

It’s a Gothic novel about twins, and it also shares many of the same attributes as Zafon’s wonderful Shadow of the Wind: books, fire, and hidden identities. If you liked that, you’ll love this one, but it is also very much more of a “women’s novel,” written for anyone who ever loved Wuthering Heights, or The Lady in White, or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, or Middlemarch, or Jane Eyre. Above all Jane Eyre, especially if, like me, you lost interest in that book the first time you read it after the part when Jane’s first friend dies, and she returns from school.

So what are you waiting for? Go! Go! Times a-wasting. Start reading!

That means you especially, Mum.

I’m back

Old MontrealJust got back last night after ten days at the cottage in the Eastern Townships with a side trip involving a night in Montreal and a weekend in Quebec City. Much good food was eaten and conviviality shared, but what struck me was the potential for good historical fiction about this whole area.

There is an old and noble tradition of historical writing about French Canada during the ancien regime and the British colonies to the south, including the war of Independence — I’m thinking of authors like Thomas Costain, Thomas Raddall, and Kenneth Roberts. But when I say old, I mean old. Surely we are due for some reinterpretations. I thought of my friend with Renaissance and Early modern interests as I strolled the streets of old Quebec, still intact within its original walls, and couldn’t help feeling that this town in its restored beauty might provide as strong a sense of how the French lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as any in France.

The photo at left is from Old Montreal, and it shows the “sailor’s church,” Notre Dame de Bon Secours (immortalized by Leonard Cohen as “Our Lady of the Harbour”) with the silvered dome of the Marche de Bonsecours in the background.