Barack Obama

Wild Horses and Bayonets Couldn’t Drag My Binders Full of Women Away: Political Satire on Web 2.0

Screenshot of the Twitter feed of Invisible Obama, taken 23 January 2013

Image Credit: Screenshot from Twitter

Inauguration officials estimate that about one million people crowded the National Mall this weekend to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as President. While this crowd was smaller than the 1.8 million who attended his first inauguration in 2008, a number of luminaries were present: Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, and Invisible Obama. Apparently Invisible Obama had a busy day planning his inaugural ball outfit, surprising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and acting as a “seat filler.”

What Obama and Romney Talked About

Presidential Convention World Cloud

(Image credit: New York Times)

Throughout the presidential election I was amazed how little either candidate discussed climate change – that is, neither said anything about it and both championed “clean coal,” whatever that is. Hearing the phrase “clean coal” makes me think about what it must be like for a quinquagenarian to eat Wendy’s before going in to get their blood pressure checked, and how on their drive to the doc they might shamelessly try something to mitigate the effects of their lack of restraint. What’s the humane and intelligent response to such tomfoolery? And then to think how much of that “clean coal” is powering the servers that are hosting this blog and all others out there on the interwebs…quit reading now! But of course none of us are going to quit reading or streaming, or eating Wendy’s. Hence why neither candidate thought the subject smart enough to broach, I guess.

Staging Election Night

Romney Election Night Stage

(Image credit: Chicago Tribune)

Did anybody notice how many American flags graced the stage of Mitt Romney’s rally last week on Election Night? Why were they grouped in threes? What was the Romney campaign trying to suggest by dressing the stage in such a way? That Mitt Romney was patriotic and put America before all things? That not only is Mitt Romney patriotic, but he can afford many American flags? That like all-things American, our flags should come in large proportions? Is there anything in Mormon theology that preferences the number three? If three is somehow significant, why give us four sets of three? Maybe we got four sets of three because this way Romney could be positioned in the middle of flags during his speech? Are the three sets of gaps between the tri-flags on Mitt Romney’s Election Night stage significant? If Mitt Romney’s was supposed to stand between one of the gaps, and Paul Ryan was supposed to stand in another, does anybody know who was supposed to stand in the third gap? Does anybody know where one can buy 12 regulation-size American flags? Never mind the flags, does anybody know where one can get the flag poles that have the eagles on top?

Bob Dylan's Thoughts on the Election

Dylan Medal of Freedom

(Image credit: Star Tribune)

Hard to know what to write about here. The regular 9 AM postings of this blog necessitate that I write a full day in advance, and I have nothing to say about the election returns, about which I’m sure is only what you wish to be reading on the morning after a general election. Sorry. But it seems like some discussion of Bob Dylan’s election predictions are worth your while, however. Two nights ago in Madison, Wisconsin, Dylan was wrapping up yet another gig on his current tour with Mark Knopfler. He’d just taken an encore break and was coming back on stage for the night’s final number. Before continuing on with the music he said, “We tried to play good tonight since the president was here today.” (Obama had earlier wrapped up a rally in Madison.) Not only this, but Dylan went on to say, “Don’t believe the media. I think it’s going to be a landslide.” Now, the obvious response is: “What does Bob Dylan know about election polls, much less the Electoral College? How could he possibly be calling this thing so early? There’s no way.” Well, I wonder if he might indeed be on to something.

President Obama's Pink Bracelet

Obama's pink bracelet

(Image credit: The New York Times)

I noticed during the other night’s debate that President Obama is wearing a pink bracelet in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a welcomed embrace of a worthy cause, no doubt. But after Romney’s “binders full of women” in the last debate and both candidates’ rather transparent desire for female votes, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not President Obama is actually this interested in this particular disease. The alternative would be that his wearing of the bracelet is a cynical gesture designed to cobble up some more votes. Moreover, if this were a cynical gesture on Obama’s part, what might this confirm about the ongoing political conversation in the United States? After a term in which Obama frequently supported women’s health concerns, his wearing of a bracelet is really what it takes to attract female voters? With these questions in mind, I did a little Wikipediaing a was instantly reminded that Obama’s mother died of ovarian and uterine cancer – facts I then recalled from my reading of his two books. I now felt like a jerk for my own cynicism. It was soon clear to me how much my own cynical reasoning was a product of the media-dominated culture in which I live. But what’s the alternative? Wouldn’t seeing the bracelet and not thinking twice be like watching all those negative TV ads and accepting them at face value?

What Andy Cohen Can Tell Us About Jim Lehrer

A GIF of Andy Cohen moderating the presidential debate

Image Source: Reality TV Gifs

I’m weighing in late this week on last week’s first presidential debate.  Jay has usefully analyzed several covers of The New Yorker and illuminated for us a particular venue’s take on the candidates, while Todd has collected “Big Bird” memes to demonstrate a variety of reactions to Romney’s attack on PBS.  I’d like to pick up the popular culture trail where Todd has left off and discuss one meme in particular, posted by RealityTVGifs on October 4th, the morning after the first debate.  The gif depicts presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama superimposed on Real Housewives of New Jersey Jacqueline Laurita and Teresa Giudice, respectively, while Andy Cohen, Executive VP of Bravo, moderates.  How can we read the comparisons this image invites—of the presidential debate to a Real Housewives reunion special?  Though there is obviously the potential of productive discussion in the relationship between Romney/President Obama and Laurita/ Guidice, what if we examine the less obvious juxtaposition: how can Andy Cohen inform our reading of moderator Jim Lehrer?

Mitt Romney vs. Big Bird: When Enthymemes Attack

Big Bird stands behind Romney at an outdoor microphone

Image Source: Unknown

In last week's debate, one of the more memorable moments was Mitt Romney's vow to cut off government funding to public television despite his appreciation of both Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. Because he would neither raise taxes nor borrow money from China, Romney argued, he would cut programs like PBS. I suppose Romney intended the statement as a bit of red meat for his basethose who would rather their tax monies not go to PBSand perhaps also for the putative independent/undecided voter who also distrusts such government spending. I also suppose that for such audiences the line worked. However, for other audiences, Romney's enthymeme provoked an outcry, because those audiences do not share the unstated premise in his argument that PBS does not merit continued funding. Sesame Street lovers (and Romney haters) across the web responded with a torrent of photoshopped images criticizing Romney's position.

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE SPECIAL: Obama and Romney on the cover of The New Yorker

Obama New Yorker Cover

With reports that Mitt Romney’s been practicing “zingers” for two months in preparation for tonight’s debate, and press releases from both campaigns attempting to temper our expectations, I can’t help but post something related to this entertainment. And though I’m dying to ask you, patriotic reader, in light of the aforementioned press releases, whether American politics has actually distended to the point where our Presidential candidates admittedly aren’t our most able communicators, I’ll keep this on the lighter side. Well, actually, one serious question real quickly: If one practices zingers for two months do they actually retain their efficacy? OK, now that I got out of my system…I’m teaching a composition class based around The New Yorker this semester, and just yesterday I had the notion that a consideration of the magazine’s recent political covers might afford a decent summation of the issues currently at stake. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do this with my class anytime soon – we’ve got articles planned through Thanksgiving – but I thought the blogosphere might find it interesting. If nothing else, it’ll be a quick refresher before tonight’s commoditized version of Enlightenment political economy (the debate will make those of us who consume it feel like engaged citizens, even though it’s obvious that both candidates are products of a slightly un-democratic fundraising process).

Logos Isn't Working

Romney - Obama Isn't Working

Image Credit:

So last week I suggested that my post on tennis, David Foster Wallace, and postmodernism might be my last for the 2011–2012 academic year. I lied. Here’s another 500–1,000 words for your delectation. While thinking over what to write about last week, I decided to take coffee at Starbucks and read the paper. This was the day that Paul Krugman wrote his column “The Amnesia Candidate” (22 April 2012), and I’ve been thinking about what’s said there ever since. The Op-Ed is a thoughtful evaluation of Mitt Romney’s most recent campaign rhetoric, and it is especially efficient in the way it attacks the former governor for blaming some of Bush’s legacy on Obama. While Krugman does concede that Obama could have handled economic matters differently, he ultimately concludes by asking “Are the American people forgetful enough for Romney’s attack to work?”. This is a complex question. You hear cynics complain all the time that American voters have a 6-month attention span, which, if true, must surely be further compromised by consumer culture’s narcotization. There’s probably some truth to this. How could there not be given technology’s onslaught of information?

I Turn My Camera On, Then My Photoshop

Picture of celebrity Shia LaBeouf posed next to an unknown black-haired white man.  The two are posed in the middle of a house; LaBeouf is on the left and the other man on the right of the shot.

Image Credit: Everett Hiller

H/T:  Crushable

While I’ve done some recent fangirling over Ryan Gosling and Benjamin Franklin, I would have never imagined I could be in a photograph with them.  At least, not until I saw Everett Hiller’s holiday party photographs, into which he Photoshopped various celebrities.

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