Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Aretha: The voice is going but the spirit is still there. I loved the hat, & it cost her nothing at Mr. Song Millinery ($179 for anyone else) to upstage Michelle & nearly Barack, too. Unlike the POTUS, The Queen of Soul is a lifetime job, like the Queen of England. Just curtsy & mind your manners.
The Oath: Both participants stumbled, ironic because both are expert constitutional lawyers. This was weird, stopped just short of strange omen status. The path will not be smooth.
The Speech: Prosaic. But Obama is good with prose. Obama to Obamaniacs: Back to Earth. Unequivocal change from his predecessor:
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.We look back with shame at those times when we chose safety. But I still think all of Bush's remaining supporters & maybe most Americans see little reason to protect any rights they don't currently exercise.
The Poem: Praise Song for the Day. I'm pleased with the modesty of this poem. It isn't great, but it comes from the mainstream of American poetry, which is often a poetry of occasion with a small "o". Many of our greatest poems celebrate very small things in the plainest language. Poems of High Occasion are difficult to write well, & few, even by Brits, endure. The American craft is more comparable to jazz & improvisatory dance than classical art music & ballet. The three previous inaugural poems were awful, Alexander's is not. In 1961, Robert Frost couldn't read his prepared poem in the wind & blinding sun, so he recited "The Gift Outright" from memory, which is a very good poem, not composed for the occasion yet fitting. I was advised by my own poetry teacher, a fine poet of occasion, to write for an event when requested or moved to it, as a proper duty of the poet, if the occasion is worthwhile, but not to expect much of the poem or the intended audience. In America we do not get our poetry from poems.
The Quartet: Marveling at their ability to play in the cold, even with a heated platform, I recalled that Olivier Messiaen's masterpiece, "Quartet for the End of Time," using the same instruments, was debuted in a prisoner of war camp in 1941, outdoors, 22 degrees below zero. Others liked John Williams' arrangement of "Simple Gifts" better than I did. Wondered how John Adams or Philip Glass would've handled the tune. Or Thelonious Monk.
Benediction: Rev. Joseph Lowery. Not the great prayer some are saying. Tried to pack too much into too short a text, but far superior to the Invocation. As he warmed up he channeled prophet Isaiah. Remembered the oppressed, smacked around the oppressors.
Lunch Menu: It was nice Ted Kennedy made it to the ceremony & toughed it out, but I was puzzled when he showed up at the luncheon, & I thought, "Surely he's ignoring his doctor's advice, why is he pushing it for fish stew?" Stepped out for awhile, when I came back & turned on TV, Obama was glumly referring to Ted collapsing. This apparently so upset ancient Senator Robert Byrd that he was emotionally overcome.
Katie Couric: Probably applies to all the networks. Don't these people know when to shut up & just show us?
The Parade: is running well over an hour late, these marchers must have suffered terribly. Most of them have been outside since early morning. Now they parade out of the dark past a nearly empty presidential reviewing stand, the super elite guests having fled to get ready for the balls. The batons of the University of Tennessee twirlers have not frozen to their fingers.
Participant who had the most fun: Joe Biden. He was having the time of his life. He's switching to an easier job, a shorter commute, but has more pull with the president than he had as senator. This election changed my opinion of Joe Biden. Perhaps it changed Biden. For the first time, he had the national stage he always sought, but he didn't get it as the presidential nominee, which was his driving ambition. As it turned out, playing second banana (third banana if we include Michelle) suited him. I'd never associated him much with humor & warmth. He got to tell his story. The contrast with Sarah Palin he provided was no joke. Voters didn't have to love Biden to have confidence in his qualifications.
The digital camera experience: Hordes of people, at the ceremony & balls, all taking photos that will not be good, or different from thousands of others posted online, as if what they are experiencing in the moment is not really occurring unless it is documented. But if they are looking at the view window, the experience includes looking at the camera image. I understand the cellphone images from cameras held overhead & shared immediately with friends & family.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama
It's a new day. And, like you, I haven't felt anything like this since I was 9, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as pesident.
At some point, we switched to CSPAN. No commentary, just video feed.