Friday, October 31, 2008

Something scary for Halloween

Interview with John Updike

Follow this link for wonderful interview with John Updike. The celebrated author shares his thoughts on the candidates, the presidential election, and his home state of Pennsylvania. Many valuable cultural insights...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On a dark rainy morning...


The day starts in darkness
No clear beginning
Thunder, a surprise guest
Dragging its heavy bag across the sky
Rain fingers drumming the windows
Keeping time with the wind
There is something pleasing
About all of this
About the lamp burning above the sink
Ricocheting light in the stainless steel
The cream of wheat simmering on the stove
The newspaper folded on the table.
Something the bright sun
In a clear uncomplicated sky
Cannot compete with
The interior landscape lingering past
Its appointed bounds
The night’s dreams perched
Like a snail’s
Spiral button on your back
If there is something missing
Something more to need or want
There is coffee
And there is Mozart on the radio
And there is an hour
Before you must be
Somewhere else.

copyright Charles Oberkehr 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

what if things were switched?

I received this in an email from a friend. It touches on something that has been bothering me throughout this election season, but haven't been able to articulate. The email follows below:

Ponder the following:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
(The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bill Maher and religion...

The least interesting thing about the comedian Bill Maher is his take on religion. He's against it. There, that's about all you need to know.

But Maher can't leave it at that. He feels compelled to attack religious beliefs and the people that hold them. His attack barely rises to the level you might expect from a 7th grade confirmation class.

Maher even goes so far as to make an entire movie about it. "Religulous" a documentary style film along the lines of "Borat" is in the theaters now. Some are wondering about its impact on evangelism. I figure the people who would find this appealing beyond its comedic entertainment value are not going to be prime targets for evangelism anyway.

There is more than enough to criticize about religious beliefs, and the way those beliefs are practiced. Especially in America, where Christendom as Kierkegaard skewered it so effectively, is alive and well. (See Attack Upon Christendom). Maher offers little in the way of insight. His critiques are as infantile as the beliefs he is ridiculing.

Maher simply offers the flip side of the fundamentalist coin. He seems unable to conceive of a truth beyond the level of "fact". A fundamentalist seeks to establish the literal truth of scripture, which is as silly as the atheist (Maher) seeking to establish the literal falsity of it.

Truth, at its most profound level, is not found between the fundamentalist bookends of true and false. That's the stuff of a pop quiz. Let Bill Maher slug it out with Robertsons, the Dobsons and the big box churches. That argument produces more heat than light.

The truth that transforms hearts and lives is found in the "fabrications" of poets and painters, writers and storytellers who understand that truth is never the servant of fact. Fact serves the truth.

Truth lives where hope embraces doubt, where faith requires a great leap and while you are hanging there in mid air, before you land on the other side, truth is what you have to say.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Interactive state-by-state prediction map says Obama wins

An Election Map but it's not a poll. It's based on 50 underlying prediction markets that respond in real-time to breaking news, so the forecasts are continually updated, and proven to be accurate. And they're predicting that Obama will walk it.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Life in Hempstead

Rate Tonight's Debate

Get involved, add some weight. Rate tonight's Presidential debate. Sign up here.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain & Palin Twins Found [PIC]

Finally, the story can be told. The long lost twins of John McCain and Sarah Palin step into the spotlight.

read more | digg story

Friday, October 10, 2008

What's REALLY at the end of the rainbow...

Ok, so it's not a pot of gold, unless you're selling I suppose. But the price looks good anyway.

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Next Stop...Hempstead

We’re getting ready for the final presidential debate here in Hempstead. Newsday ran a story this morning that no one, not even VIP’s, will have much luck in getting into Hofstra Wednesday night. I guess we’ll be watching on TV.

Demonstrators are getting organized. I get a few emails a day about the various demonstrations being planned. I think Hempstead Turnpike is going to be lined with people, shoulder to shoulder, from Hofstra right on down to the front of the church for most of the day. I imagine the Island is going to be one big grid-lock Wednesday.

Every day that passes now, there is the sense of momentum, an air of inevitability to the election. McCain is fading fast. He is morphing into a character out of Grumpy Old Men. Not even one of the leads; a supporting grumpy old man. He says anything now and contradicts himself, many times in the same sentence. It doesn’t matter. No one is paying enough attention to him now to bother correcting him. The conversation has moved past him.

Watching him is like watching one of those dubbed foreign movies. The mouth stops moving and the words keep going. Facial expressions flash across McCain’s face at random, unconnected to anything. More like tics really. Especially when he is trying to exude warmth. I remember him standing there at the beginning of the last debate, expressions cascading across his face like all the circuits in there were booting up. It was a little creepy.

What’s going to be interesting now is the future of Sarah Palin. Does she have a legitimate political future out of this, or does this constitute the sum total of her 15 minutes of fame? The comedy writers will be sorry to see her go. She is a gift from the comedy muse. It’ll be back to work for them once she rides off into the Alaskan sunset. The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live should give her royalty cuts.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Existential Algebra

Here's a bit of existential algebra. How much difference can one person make in the world?

I have tended to underestimate that, I think. As an artist, I have eschewed the role of 'activist' as being too limiting. Besides, my sense of anger too easily ties my tongue in knots. I wind up writing embarrassing rants that collapse at my feet under their own indignant weight.

Activism seems more goal driven. Art requires a willingness to end up in a different place than you intended when starting out. Which is to say, a willingness to be surprised. Art requires a certain detachment (from outcome) and paradoxically a sense of passion (translated hope). Therein lies the creative tension. How does one manage to maintain passionate detachment? It is easy to get out of whack. Writer's block, depression, cynicism step in to fill the gaps.

Underestimating the impact of the individual is one of those gaps. Everyone rushes in to proclaim a hero, and the artist hangs back. There are no heroes, how much difference can one person make? The hero walks hand in hand with the anti-hero. The sun casts its long shadow.

There is undeniable truth in that observation, as long as you recognize the limitations of it as well. It is not an excuse to do nothing and retreat into cynicism, or quietism, or defeatism. Instead, it is the opportunity to lay hold of your own destiny and not place it in the hands of someone else. Hero or villain.

How much difference can one person really make in the world? My answer. George W. Bush.

In eight years his incurious incompetence has changed the world in astounding ways. Mostly for the worst. Now, if one person's incompetence and unresolved father issues can produce such disastrous changes, isn't the opposite, the capacity for positive change, just as possible at the hand of one person? I believe it is.

If one person can be responsible for so much devastation, one person can also manage to turn it around. Which makes me hopeful for the coming election. Which moves me to be part of my world, with all its shortcomings. Which is to say, shoulder my share of the activist load.

I was never very good at algebra. But, in the midst of the terrible destruction and devastation of Bush years, I can be grateful to be coming out them with this measure of hope still in the social equation. No small feat.

Friday, October 03, 2008

VP's history

Well, I watched last night, and I saw Biden provided substantive answers. Palin provided an energetic presentation of scripted talking points and Bush slogans. She blantantly refused to answer questions for which she had not been prepped. She was completely thrown by the last question about what her shortcomings might be. Biden answered it with grace and humor, which led to his most effective and human moment of the night.

Palin did not make any huge mistakes like her previous interviews. But she never rose above the level of discourse you might get from a used car salesman (Can I callya Joe?). One trying to move a real clunker off the lot.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

VP Debates / What's at stake?

Roger Cohen, a columnist for the NY Times reports this morning that the actuarial risk, based on mortality rates, of Palin assuming the presidency should McCain win the election is about 1 in 6 or 7.

Cohen writes, "That’s the same odds as your birthday falling on a Wednesday, or being delayed on two consecutive flights into Newark airport. Is America ready for that?"

Good question, don't you think? I know I'll be thinking about that tonight while I watch the debates.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The elections

Take a look at the video bar, especially the interview with Katie Couric. It's painful to watch. I start to squirm watching it. There is a mad dash here to lower expectations in advance of the debate tomorrow night between Palin and Biden. I think it's too late. I've maintained all along that this election will not be as close as people have been predicting. McCain is selling his soul in desperation in a last ditch effort to win the big prize. And there is something unsettling about even looking at him now. He looks disjointed, like he's coming apart before our eyes. Sarah Palin makes him look sad and pathetic...and old when they are together. There is something unseemly about their sugar-daddy relationship. I guess I learned something important about myself, watching them. I can still be embarrassed.