The Blue Raccoon

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The SEAL Team Conquers Carytown
...but politely.

I had a true Richmond experience yesterday morning around 6 a.m while hiking up to the 7-11 for creamer. The SEAL Team fitness group was out in force, jogging back and forth along Cary Street, about 40 of them. I encountered them running up Belmont as they moved fast and excited, as though they'd just jumped out of an airplane.

I appreciate the idea of the SEAL regimen, the concept of a 10-year Marine veteran who puts people through the kind of physical training he underwent, at the crack of dawn (which is the time most non-Marine professionals have for themselves). So I'm watching them huff and sweat and call out instructions to each other, and admiring the sweaty effort in a lumpy, pasty, middle-aged, back-injured, walk-to-work, Pilates two-days-a-week-if-I'm-lucky kind of way.

Well, as I'm heading up the street watching them go up comes, "Bring it in!" that is called down the line in unit command manner. So they start now running toward me. I have to give way on the sidewalk, which is fine, I can watch pony-tails swish and calf-muscles flex with the best of them. As they thunder by, almost each one of them said, "Good morning!" -- and the voices are higher, lower, male, female, and it was just great. Some even smiled, and one woman said, "We're quite a spectacle at this hour of the morning, aren't we?" Yeah, but in a good way.

The Girl With The Head Scarf Stays In The Picture

The Obama campaign got snagged on the effort of volunteers--well-meaning but wrong-headed--who tried to finesse their candidate's image by preventing two young supporters wearing head scarves from appearing behind the dais as Al Gore gave his belated and dull endorsement. As reported by Politico....

The mind goes back, to those faraway days this past spring when the notion of an Obama candidacy seemed, at best, a rather brain-fevered and heart-on-sleeve Quixotic exercise. (As opposed to the present brain-fevered, heart-on-sleeve Quixotic possibility).

His handlers were so nervous about the trajectory of Obama's image that when appearing at a fund raiser here at Richmond, Vee-ay's Plant Zero, two paintings of a current exhibition by Jamie D. Bolling got, well, censored. These were the unseen pictures shown around the world:

From the May 15, 2007 Sydney Morning-Herald:

"The images you see here are paintings that could not be shown last week when the US presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in the Plant Zero Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. Obama's staff apparently were concerned that the paintings, both by Jamie Boling, would embarrass the senator.

They removed a painting titled Honest Abe, showing a T-shirt with the words "Kill Lincoln". It was allegedly homage to the 1980s movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (wherein Lincoln referred to a competing high school, not a 19th century president).

They put a sheet over a painting titled Snake Charmer, on sale for $US5000 ($6000), which depicts Paris Hilton in a car next to somebody who might be Britney Spears (we say "might be" because the headless image seems to refer to an occasion when Spears emerged from a car without underwear).

Boling told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the Hilton painting "depicts this culture's preoccupation with celebrity." He said he held no grudge: "I understand that a politician would want to avoid being photographed in front of Britney Spears's crotch.

"I think it's really ironic that we're a culture that kind of prides ourselves on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and then we're quick to jump on people who exercise that right or are fearful of the unknown. And the unknown in this case was: 'What if Barack Obama's picture is taken in front of one of these paintings? How can that be spun by the other side?"'

At the time, I wrote a lengthy blog about the whole silly thing-- on another network, as they say--but suffice to say both of these panics in a kiddie pool underscore the vapid zero-sum nature of politics and some people. One out of 10 of those answering a poll thought that Barack Obama is a Muslim. These, I guess, are the 26 percent who still love Bush and want McCain to fulfill what they think should be W's third term, the same 26 percent who think Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were lovers, and that Barack Hussein Obama is their love child -- as inconceivable as that may be. 

The subtle irony that underscored the Richmond situation is that Bolling deals with celebrity, media and perception. The "Kill Lincoln" T-shirt wrapped around a merry bosom is a tight close-up of an otherwise innocuous image from a goofy teen movie and involved a pep rally for a football team. There is further political/history subtext, too, which, considering the "a" word that gets whispered has another level of meaning that Bolling demonstrated in his prescient artistic way. Smoking Gun had more and bigger here.

I don't know Obama's taste in art. But after the head scarf flap, his campaign released a torrent of images with him standing near or next to women with head scarves.

And, oh, by the way, Michelle Obama appeared on The View yesterday. At 5'11" and with those amazing arms, she looked like she'd just arrived from the Justice League of America, and could, at any moment, grab up the panel and launch herself out of the studio. That's what I'm talkin' about.

[Image: Steve Fenn/ABC, via Associated Press, via the New York Times]

And speaking of the Justice League of America, Obama conducted a photo op trotting out his foreign policy and national security team. This is a deep bench although the carpers--with some justification-- call it "Change you can go back to," and wonder where a Mesopotamian guru might be (channeling T.E. Lawrence, perhaps? If he'd been listened to, we might not have gotten locked into this noun-verb-and-9/11 mentality.) I admit seeing them all gathered around the squared "U' table thrilled my little Eeyore heart-- though the tableaux resembled a Disneyworld's Hall of Presidents...Madeline Albright, General Wesley Clark (Can you say Arkansas and the South, can you say Man Factor/Security Mom? Can you say...Vice President General Wesley Clark? -- That is, if Sen. Jim Webb passes/doesn't pass muster, then Clark can go to State or Defense.) and..woah!..Warren Christopher, who, apparently, is still being seen in public even after HBO's Recount makes him look rather, um, lame.

I miss Samantha Power, though. Brainiac red head. All I'm sayin'.

The Cyd (1922-2008)
"Beautiful Dynamite"

I can't say anything better than Fred Astaire's description in this post's title.

Cyd Charisse, (Tula Ellice Finklea), dancer. From Amarillo,
Texas. Of course. That's how they make'm down there.
Image via

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