22 March 2008

Math Any Ten Year Old Can Do

I was just on the phone this morning with a friend here in Atlanta. I’d called her to inform her about the recent death of a young man we both knew, because we hail from the same town in South Carolina. It turns out she happened to be home this weekend, and had just found out herself. She was actually in the process of getting ready to go to the funeral when I called.

“Yep,” she exclaimed, “I know it’s got to be hard on his daddy. I guess I need to go sit in the church today. For his father.”

We traded a few remarks about the dead son. We spoke about the funeral, and where it would be held.

“You know the pastor can’t let you leave a funeral without making sure he’s taken you there,” my friend said. “He’s going to preach to us until he thinks we’ve got the spirit.” In the next breath, she brought up the controversy with Reverend Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor. “Speaking of pastors – how long you think they’re going to keep our boy on the ropes with this thing?”

I proceeded to talk about what the lack of diversity in the places that matter in America really means – that the overly homogeneous press corps we want to rely on as a Fourth Estate who represent ALL of our interests seem to only attend white churches. If there were more than a token amount of minority journalists and news reporters in this group, I asserted, maybe we would see some stories about kinds of churches she and I grew up around, where preachers understood that their job was to entertain as well as enlighten in order to maintain and grow their congregations.

She asked me if I thought it was a death knell for Obama – if the loss he was anticipating in Pennsylvania would put Clinton back in the lead.

“BACK in the lead? Lead of what?” I practically shouted into the phone. I proceeded to tick off the facts – “math any ten year old could do” is actually how I put it – that strongly suggested that this race would end up after the North Carolina primary the same way it did after the Texas/Ohio contests – with no net change to either candidate of delegates won, and no net change in the number of actual votes – now standing at 700,000 – by which Obama was leading Clinton.

“You need to turn that news off,” I continued, “and just use the links I send you to keep an eye on the raw numbers. If you listen to these people in the media, they will have you believing that 9 is greater than 10. That 1246 is greater than 1414. That 12.5 million is greater than 13.2 million.”

She laughed. “I see your point.”

19 March 2008

No Puppet

After listening to the speech Barack Obama gave on Tuesday for the second time tonight, I feel the need to say something, even though, in the wake of the masterfully crafted speech that this presidential candidate ostensibly wrote himself, I am sure that whatever I write will come up far short of what he accomplished over the last few days.

To speak about race and America in the way that he did, with all that he has at stake, was simply beautiful. From the stark, even tempered delivery to the calming royal blue background to the massing of the American flags in the background, it all was calculated to add a large measure of gravitas to the words he spoke. His cadence was conversational rather than the halting declarative style we have come to associate with political speeches. His eyes were serious most of the time, a look that is not one the public is used to seeing grace his countenance.

The plain-spoken affirmations he made:

"I can no more disown him [Reverend Wright] than I can disown the black community."

"I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother"

"That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table."

"But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."

"And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding."

"We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news."

direct, forthright, and without equivocation - this is no puppet, as so many black politicians have become, or some beige sensation who appropriates the exotic essence of the African American experience and ignores the rest, but a candidate who is firmly in charge of himself and his message.

The boldness of his rhetoric reminded me in many ways of a lot of the things I have written on this very board to you guys - but without the spotlight of a hundred TV feeds or the glare of a rabid press corps waiting to dissect my every word. As he proceeded to go on to describe white resentment to black anger, I felt that he was having the ultimate metaphorical conversation with the two halves of his own identity.

I don't know where this thing is going, but I am DELIGHTED to have such a capable and able representative of the darker slice of this American pie in the running to become the next president of these United States.

08 March 2008

Simplifying The Positive

Mr. Obama
Mrs. Obama
Obama ’08 Campaign

March 8, 2008

I’m just a guy in Atlanta who has been spending waaaay too much time in front of his computer this last week in an emotional stupor because…well, because the guy I voted for back in the Georgia Primary, the same guy I get to see on TV every night, the one who looks more like me than any presidential candidate ever - yes, you, Mr. Barack Obama - seems to be in a quandary. “Seems to be” is the operative word here. I know the hundred thousand watt minds running your campaign are probably burning brightly enough to light up all the buildings in downtown Atlanta, but the thing is, in regular America, the one that organizes its week around “American Idol” or “Lost” and plans bathroom breaks during the commercials – to this America, anything more than a momentary pause in your campaign’s activity is a negative. The great unwashed, with whom I work everyday, fill coffee breaks and smoke breaks with the top sound bites from the day before. “Looks like your boy has had it,” has been a common remark this week.

So I’ve gone through all the sports analogies – Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope”, Tiger Woods malevolently self-contained A-game, Michael Jordan’s soaring “Air Jordan” style of play - trying to come up with something that can help get the you back in the saddle going forward. These guys were not dirty players, they didn’t break the rules of play – your kind of guys. The things these three have in common, though – speed and quickness, combined with superior execution of technique – is only half of the equation. The other half of what made these guys so dominant was how their personalities accentuated their styles of play.

Even though I am tempted by the image flashing through my mind of your long brown arm stretched above a canvas ring, the Everlast glove at the end of it smushed against the jaw of Mrs. Clinton as you, your head turned sideways, smile broadly at the camera, I will reel myself back to reality – the political arena is more like a golf tournament, replete with overflowing galleries, battalions of photogs, designated meet and greets, and elevated teeboxes, which serve as the players podiums when it is time for their clubs to speak. I wish it was as simple as putting on a red shirt because its Sunday and you have the fifty four hole lead, but you’re not trying to come in with the least amount of votes at the end of the day.

You opponent has simplified the negative. You can simplify the positive.

Have some fun, man!!! I do not want to see your dour face on TV every night, not because you can’t be dejected, but because I don’t want Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to see you like that. And because your face lights up when you genuinely laugh – that beats the Clinton wrinkled staredown everyday of the week.

Three ideas for commercials

Idea # 1

****Spoof the cellular phone commercial that touts its network by portraying the behind the scenes switches and relays as people – very humanizing. Mr. Obama walks away from the camera alongside someone in a pantsuit and blonde hairdo who resembles Hillary Clinton from the back, having a civil exchange about some policy difference (pick one that’s not too arcane – something with acronyms or a name we instantly recognize – maybe Medicare or Medicaid) when she he stops, turns, and faces her (the camera). There are thousands of people behind him, young, old, black, white, Latino, wearing t-shirts, suits & ties, scrub suits, firefighters, police - pleasant faced but not smiling mindlessly. She leans forward (camera draws in on Mr. Obama, framing his head, shoulders, and a horizon filled with faces) and asks, “Barack, who are all those people?”. His replies, “It’s my network”
Okay, so he can’t say “its my network”, but it could be something that encapsulates a part of his message in three to four words that are easily digestible and easily repeated.

Would work well with your matter of fact personality. Tweak or rearrange to suit.****

Idea # 2

*****[Simple commercial idea – plays to melodic voice and story telling ability. White shirt, buttoned – no tie, no jacket. Leaning over a rough hewn fence rail, watching young children at play. Mr. Obama and kids in panoramic shot as he begins to speak – camera tightens focus until only children at play are in the picture.]

“Our children all start out the same way:

[Can use images for bullet points below with voiceover - your voice can carry the bullet points without images, though, making for simpler visuals]

• Using first grade reading primers. “See Spot. See Spot run.”

• Learning the Golden Rule - ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.

• Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

• Saying the Lord’s Prayer before we go to bed

I’m here to tell you that being a parent is a lot like running for president of the United States. In many ways, I feel the same way about my campaign that I feel about my children. I want them to have good home training. I want them to abide by the rules of the community and the society they live in. I want them to be people I can be proud of, because the way the world sees them is the way the world sees me.

I make the same commitment to you that I made to my wife and my kids, to be the best candidate I can be as I run for president of these United States.******

Idea # 3

***** [Mr. Obama, standing in front of a large white screen, speaking directly into the camera]

My political advisors and I had a meeting a few days ago. They were very concerned about the negative ads coming out against my campaign. “Barack,” they said, “we know you’ve pledged not to ‘go negative’ in your campaign. We’ve practically memorized your speech on why you can’t stand that kind of politics. So what we came up with is a way to address these ads without having to ‘go negative’.

[Camera pans back to reveal two slowly scrolling bands of YouTube-like listings, one on either side of him. They are large enough to make out the faces in the ads and some of the larger graphics – red phone ad etc. Mr. Obama pauses, screws up his mouth, then continues]

“You know what I told them? I said, “The good people who have donated to my campaign did so because of what I stand for. I can’t in good conscience waste the twenty dollar and fifty dollar donations from working Americans who are sacrificing precious income at a time when the cost of living is going up and the economy is going down. So I told them to forget about spending the $30,000 dollars it would cost to make these negative ads stream past my face. [camera pans back further to reveal the edges of the white screen and the tape holding the mockups of the negative commercials. Two or three workmen then lift the entire screen up and walk it off, revealing the confines of a TV soundstage]

I told them, “forget about the idea of buying twice as many positive ads spots to counteract the negative ads.”

Because when this is all over - when the cameras are packed up, when the sound bites run dry, when the roars from the rallies across the country fade away, when the final ballots have been counted…

…it is time to practice what you preach.*****

Will forward other ideas as they come – the main thing is, DO NOT let these ten cent hustlers from Arkansas define you. There are many, many ways to create positive sound bites to crowd out the garbage the Clinton campaign is pushing. But if garbage is all people have to go on, you are screwed.

Also, get the press release count up. The weight of all that garbage floating around the internet and the news media weighs heavily on the weak minded, who are looking for an excuse to fall back on the very real “I told you his ass was too black to make it” sentiment that is beginning to raise its ugly head around the water cooler at my office.

From the ‘burbs of the ATL

07 March 2008

I Want A President Who Is Smarter Than A Fifth Grader

There is something I've had on my mind that I've wanted to express all day, but I wasn't around anyone who was going to take me seriously ( it's a bad sign when you are surrounded by the great unwashed all day).

We ask people who are arguably much, much smarter than the average citizen, at least these days (and I will include your president GW here, because even if the conventional wisdom pegs him as a retard, he is STILL smarter than most of the populace, however you want to slice that) to "dumb down" when they run for office.

Putting the limitations of having an average IQ aside, it is very possible to communicate in a meaningful way with someone who has less intellectual firepower about complex issues and ideas if they are presented in a manner that shows a logical progression at a speed that allows proper mental digestion by the recipient.

But we don't want that. We want to be experts on the professional draft pick prospects of HIGH SCHOOL seniors who are four years away from being eligible to play in the NFL. We want to be experts on the origin, care and feeding of hand rolled cigars. We want to become intimately familiar with the intricacies of human growth hormone and its possible use or abuse by professional baseball players. We want to memorize the property settlement details from Shaquille O'Neal's divorce so that we can accurately debate them at a cocktail party in the future. We want to be oenophiles capable of selecting the best wine even when we are subjected to a blind taste test.

I am constantly amazed at the amount of minutiae people master that will have absolutely no effect on the lives they live. Meanwhile, they are often prone to base their knowledge of political proceedings on the last three sound bites they heard while they were flipping the channel between a Kobi Bryant jump shot and a Roger Clemens fastball.

I just needed to get that out.

06 March 2008

Good Old Fashioned Letter Writing

Nothing like good old fashioned letter writing to share your thoughts when the person you are trying to share them with isn't someone you can just call on the phone or chat with while you are getting your mail. I figure if I send enough of these the staffers in charge of reading the emails at www.barackobama.com might see about getting these to the Boss Lady.

March 6th

Mrs. Obama,

I will admit that I have been a little disheartened the last couple of days as I watched the Clinton campaign do the victory dance over and over again on the leading news websites.

Two things have bucked me up.

The first is something your husband said fairly frequently a couple of weeks ago - "we weren't supposed to get this far". You, your husband and his staff have done a TREMENDOUS job of bringing to life a credible, well organized, full fledged presidential primary campaign that appears to have designed from the outset for the daunting task of attempting to get a brown skinned man selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party. I am proud to support the well oiled machine that allows Barack Obama make getting here look easy.

Which brings me to the second thing that keeps me going - a belief that whatever vile trash, ridiculous bullshit, or utter nonsense is thrown at Mr. Obama, he has the temerity to resist lowering himself to responding in kind. The moral suasion we were able to rely on and ultimately triumph with in the sixties stemmed in part from the indelible images of our best and our brightest, their will embodied in the forthright thrust of their chins, their class displayed in the quiet elegance of their Sunday best attire, the entire attitude of their bodies and their beings telling their opponents that they were in it for the duration - and that their only option was to prevail or die.

I've talked to several of my friends today and tonight, and it seems we all agree on the same thing - that your husband has to remain as far above the fray as humanly possible. Do whatever it takes to get his swagger back - the regal air about him when he has it makes Mrs. Clinton look like a cross between Joan Collins and Roseanne Barr, complete with all their cackle, hiss and sputter.

Your strategists are top notch, but America is already reluctant to accept the possibility of having a black president - "delegate math" is not going to be convincing unless the gap is big enough, and there is a definite perception that Mrs. Clinton has lost steam. So for God's sake, break the bank in Philadelphia and North Carolina. Spend all you have plus ten percent, because baby, we really need this - not just me, not just black people, not just Democrats, but the entire country, even those that don't realize it yet, REALLY, REALLY need the two of you to get over this last hump.

It'll probably get lost in the shuffle, but I'm going to send it anyway. It will make me feel like I got my two cents in.