Audience analysis on Obama

The Times has a pretty good analysis on the strategies Obama may use when announcing his apparent troop increase for Afghanistan next week. Part of this strategy is already apparent in the pattern of press leaks coming out of the White House.  I think this move, along with a quiet (and underreported) snubbing of the international mine ban treaty, is a huge mistake – not to mention oddly and ironically timed as he is due to accept the Peace Prize in two weeks – but it will be interesting to see how he constructs it as the right decision out of many options.

AMC’s The Prisoner miniseries – a review

I kept waiting for it to get better, or “get good,” as the saying goes. It never did.

it’s hard for me to tell if it’s just the abysmal writing or Jim Caviezel, but Number Six came off as weak. If they were put in the same room, Patrick McGoohan’s Six and that glare of his would have overshadowed him completely. The whole point of Six is that he has a extraordinarily stubborn, indomitable will, and this new Six crumbled on a regular basis.

Wikipedia, noting a number of bad reviews, also notes that the series is not a remake, but (via the NYT)  “a clever and engaging reinterpretation by Bill Gallagher, who shaped the script to contemporary tastes and sensibilities — notably, a postmodern fatigue with ideology and big thoughts.”

I find this statement baffling. The first series wasn’t postmodern? And when did ideology become tiresome? Finally, what, exactly, is a “big thought?”

The original series could get campy at times, but I am hard pressed to think of a TV series without graphic violence that got nearly as dark and introspective about the nature of society. This new series is more of a psychological thriller with a very weak, contrived sci-fi payoff which I don’t mind spoiling, because it violates one of the truisms of the old series – namely, that Number Six was actually physically trapped in the Village.

The Epideictic Obama

The President gave a speech at Fort Hood yesterday. It’s not Peracles’ funeral oration, but it’s pretty damn good – it builds up nicely and reaches a climax with a line that most speechwriters would sell their first-born child for – “We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.”

You can argue that he used the occasion to sell his war policy, although as no one knows what his war policy is at the moment, that particular argument is difficult to make.

Oddly enough, it’s not really the speech’s superb epideictic qualities that impress me. Rather, it’s how the speech contains such an incredible amount of ethos despite the fact that he does not mention himself at all. A lot of this comes from his constant invocation of Lincoln and Lincolnian concepts, and how he positions himself by proxy as an intellectual, ethical, and generational heir to Lincoln.  Count the allusions and direct references to the themes of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural – you’ll run out of fingers. And yet Obama adds a new perspective to the old ideas of sacrifice, honor, service, and national unity – the celebration of diversity as an empowering and indomitable force. Diversity, the word itself,  is such a great example of doublespeak that it is always refreshing to see it actually demonstrated with examples rather than simply invoked.

I also like this paragraph in particular, not just for the thought, but for the rhythmical construction. Obama uses the dash, the semicolon, the parallel conjunction, and the sentence appositive to powerful effect:

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.

A Powerpoint presentation authored by the shooter, Nidal Hasan, is circulating on the web. I prefer to link to the Post discussing it rather than to the file,  as it is disturbing stuff. Obama walks a thin line here, a line that Chrisitanized Westerners walk often, as he gains little from directly linking ‘twisted logic’ to Islam in any explicit way. The word ‘faith’ as used here is a good example of strategic ambiguity; for some it will mean Islam, and for others, Chrisitianity, and for still others,  other, or all, religions with explicit ethical codes.

Halloween, car shopping

Strangely-garbed children came to our house at Halloween, demanding candy, and we acquiesced. H, having lived in a remote rural area for most of her life,  never had the opportunity to suffer such extortion; she had a particularly good time.

On an unrelated note, it has come time for me to acquire a new car. The exact nature of this vehicle is under considerable debate. Personally, I want something a little larger, a little more powerful, and a little more sporty than my old Hyundai hatchback, but still mileage-friendly. H prefers that I get an automatic (the hatchback was a stick that she did not use) with a reasonable back seat and cargo area, preferably 4-door, with high safety ratings.

Here’s a few things we’ve looked at recently, ranging from fairly sporty to fairly practical.

’10 Mini Cooper S Clubman– a supercharged hatchback with great mileage (26/34) that will be an easy adjustment from the equally tiny Accent. The S model by itself is too small for us, but the Clubman S has 3 doors and more cargo space. It looks, corners, and drives great – it’s a rally car.  The main disadvantages are price – a good 40% of the sticker is style alone – and its tiny if fierce 4-cyl demands premium.

’10 Chevy Camero – Of the low-end American pony cars (Mustang and Challenger being the other two), it is the best on paper, even if in person it is a bit rough on the edges. The mileage is 18/29, Corvette-like, and the stock V-6 is 300 hp, which is very considerable and perhaps even tops for a sub-$25K car.  It drives like my eager, hyperactive spaniel puppy runs – like a bat out of hell, or as the old Chevy line goes, like a small vicious animal that eats Mustangs. My major concerns are the legroom in the back (almost non-existent, though a little better than the Cooper S), the size of the trunk (the opening is small), and H’s complete dislike of the entire bitchin’ Camero concept. It is not as much as the Clubman S, but still expensive enough to give pause.

’10 Hyundai Sonata – A jack-of-all-trades almost-luxury sedan with excellent standard gear, and it looks good, if a bit bland. The engine, at 175 hp, is a little underpowered – I was disappointed with what happened when I hit the gas in the automatic version I drove, but it was ok, and I suspect a manual version, and especially the V6 option, will be more responsive if we wander back to Hyundai. The price range is right – it is the cheapest of the four listed here, starting around 18-19k, though the V6 option could go up to 24.  The backseat and trunk are quite generous and it has four doors.

’10 Volvo C30 – This is H’s favorite. It’s essentially a four-door hatchback on steroids with an odd rear window that goes down nearly to the bumper.  It is the most expensive of the four, even the Clubman S, and is another premium sipper, and I don’t like the console layout, but it does have 225 hp and like all Volvos, it is made well and to last.  We tried but failed to test-drive this one due to another eager couple, but plan to return.