Joho the Bloginauguration Archives - Joho the Blog

January 21, 2009

Obama’s soundbyte failure

Gene Koo has a great post about why Obama’s speeches don’t produce sound bytes. Gene calls them “non-reductive.” The speeches are too complex for soundbytes. Obama’s soundbyte failure is, as Gene says, a strength, although he points out that politically Obama has also benefited from the ability of others —, for example — to produce soundbytes on his behalf.

I loved yesterday’s speech. I’ve loved it each time I’ve heard it. I liked it even more when I heard it on the radio, free of distractions. And Gene gets at why. The speech actually says something. It takes us through a set of gates to get to where we need to be. Gate 1: Yes, times are hard. We have to look at that squarely. But there is hope, based on some real things. Gate 2: We are pushing past the old contradictions that formed our idea of what is possible. Not big government or small government. Not security or liberty. Not Republican or Democract, black or white, Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu or non-believer (yay for the shout out!). Gate 3: Together, we are strong and resourceful and imaginative. Gate 4: We share, and should return to, our abiding values. Call them hope and virtue.

There was more in there. But, there was nothing I would take out. And there was also, therefore, little I would excerpt in pursuit of a soundbyte.

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January 20, 2009

Derek Walcott’s poem for Obama

This is the poem Derek Walcott wrote for Obama. Read it out loud twice. I dare you. I couldn’t get through it the second time. Too weepy. This is a beautiful, beautiful piece.

Forty Acres

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is
a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field’s
receding rim —
a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.
The small plough continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado’s
black vengeance,
and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,
heart, muscles, tendons,
till the land lies open like a flag as dawn’s sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.

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Two happy tweets for Inauguration Day


3 joys: 1. We elected a black man. 2. We love that we did. 3. That man is Barack Obama.


Exec summary of speech: The oldest values beat the old politics. We move ahead together.

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A small note

I am delighted to note that I have removed the following from this page’s sidebar. Forever:

Americans against Bush

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Couch Potwitter

I seem to be tweeting away in my eagerness to see the last of Bush and the first of the rest of us. Not to mention That One.

I tweet as dweinberger. Also, you can search for the tag #inaug09 to find a whole bunch o tweeters.

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January 19, 2009

American patriotism

Yesterday I had to explain to my startled children why their dad just about jumped out of his seat with joy when Pete Seeger showed up on stage. To those not of a particular generation and of a particular swipe through that generation, it is indeed a mystery…

I was born in 1950 to parents who agreed more about politics than anything else. My father was a WWII vet and a graduate of Harvard Law who, rather than going into private practice, went to work as a lawyer for the New York State Labor Relations Board. He believed working people needed the power of unions to fight exploitation. And he was right.

My mother was a folksinger — she taught guitar but did not have enough confidence, or I imagine, my father’s support, to perform — starting in the early 1950s, before the the pop acculturation of that form. Folk music back then was a mix of art, anthropology and politics. During an era of smooth, mass market, commercial singers — think of a Perry Como Christmas Hour — the folklorists were out in the fields, preserving the raw, bottom-up songs of the least among us. Folk music stood in the fields against the great lawn mower of commercial entertainment.

A labor lawyer and a folksinger. My parents were the very definition of what others called “commie symps” (communist sympathizers). Pink, not red. They had no love for Russia, but they also saw America’s sins for what they were: Racist, misogynist (my mother but not my father was something like an early feminist), crass, bullying, and sexually obsessed with atomic bombs. They believed in America’s stated principles and promise, and had the ACLU membership cards to prove it. But they had also lived through a time when lynchings went unpunished, and Joseph McCarthy had twisted the legislature around his accusatory finger.

Pete Seeger was of my parents’ generation. In our household, he was the example of what a patriot looks like. A man of the people. Someone who had suffered for his political views in the McCarthy years. A hero who had stayed true to his ideals. A person who felt connected to the worst off, who appreciated their culture and who worked for their aspirations. A quiet person who never boasted. A character who never bowed to fashion or the expectations of others. A singer happiest in a small circle of like souls. Someone whose life and songs celebrated the greatest of America’s democratic ideals: The ineffable value of the ordinary person.

So, when Pete Seeger came out on stage in his rainbow Smurf hat, to sing before our new president, our new black president, I lost it. What my parents would have thought. What Pete Seeger must be thinking. But most of all, the proof of how steeply history can arc.

Pete Seeger: American patriot.

[Note: This post is also up at Huffington. Feel free to comment there.]

words and music by Woody Guthrie

[Note the second-to-last verse, the one that begins “As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there.” It’s a lot of people’s favorite — dw]

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding

This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there
And that sign said – no tress passin’
But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.

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January 18, 2009

Heavens, I’m a flutter

Obama’s letter to his daughters in Parade Magazine this morning wasn’t particularly well done. But I choked up. I’m watching Bruce Springsteen at the concert right now. I’ve never particularly liked him, and I’m not knocked out by this. But I’m on the verge of tears again. Jon goddamn Bonjovi just made me cry.

I’m in a bad way.

I don’t need any reminders about the troubles we face or Obama’s flaws and weaknesses. I know he’s just a guy with two legs and an empty pair of pants when he wakes up. Really I do.

But for months I’ve felt, well, a surge. I can’t even tell you what the feeling is. All I know for sure is that it makes my throat tight and my cheeks wet. And it’s too much to be attributed to one skinny young guy. And certainly it’s not all directed at him.

But don’t you feel it too? It’s as if we’ve been given permission, let go, released. Let’s not say from what. Not today.

Into what? Not sure. But it’s been there all along, waiting.

At least, that’s what it feels like to me.

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January 13, 2009

Inaugural legal guide for citizen media

Berkman’s Citizen Media Law Project has published a guide for bloggers, twitterers, and other citizen media folks on the rights and restrictions of those documenting the inauguration.

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