Jodi Kantor’s Michelle Obama

The September 2007 issue of Vogue, weighing five pounds, has more ad pages than any magazine issue before or since.  For that reason, as well as the lavishness and glitz of the products on display, both in the ads and in the articles, the issue now has the dubious distinction of icon:  exemplar of the profligacy that would lead shortly to the Great Recession.  Michelle Obama occupies a big fashion photo spread in the issue.  In one memorable shot, she reclines, posed sinuously—the better to emphasize the long curve of her backless designer evening dress.

Now I challenge you to find online any photographic record of this particular Michelle Obama fashion shoot (Annie Leibovitz, no less).  Although the accompanying article, written in that Vogueish effervescent style, is readily available, the photographs—well, it’s as if they never existed. (more…)

Iowa Caucuses 2012

Suppose I should put in my two cents on the Iowa caucuses, even though, unlike in 2008, I have not been covering them up close and personal.  Indeed it is a palsied finger tapping at the computer since I have just returned from a fraught week in Chicago, where my family gathered for a nephew’s New Year’s Eve wedding.  The ceremony was glorious, but my husband, older daughter and I all came down with stomach flu and are still recovering.  First thing husband lost our house key.  First thing husband, who had not been out-of-communication for more than a four-hour plane ride, had to deal with the worst Apple crisis of his career.  (Wish I could tell you all–quite a story, with far-reaching consequences.) All this–not to mention the usual family tensions and meltdowns that accompany nuptials and later embroider wedding lore.  Coda:  lost baggage.

Enough of that.  On to Iowa.  Here is the one thing you need to know about tonight. (more…)

Random Ruminations on the Republican Contenders

Various and sundry behaviors by the Republican clutch of presidential hopefuls don’t bother me much.  My family–ancestors–had some experience with the quirks of governors.  Sam Houston, for example, spent his honeymoon*** (the first–he married three times) at Travellers Rest, my five-greats grandfather’s home south of Nashville.  

Houston’s wedding night was memorable enough to have earned a place in family lore.  His young bride was caught by surprise? unable to hide her revulsion? unwilling to hide her revulsion? at the old war wound in Houston’s groin that oozed and stank to high heaven.  Caught off-guard? Shamed? Unmanned?–Houston freaked out and cowered, crouched, naked and gibbering, in the corner of the house’s best bedroom all night long.  (more…)

The Essential Obama, 3. Complexifier

Here is Barack Obama’s gift.  He is comfortable in this new world of complexity (to which I referred in my last post) as many of us fellow Americans are not.  I have coined the word complexifier to describe this essential part of him in order to characterize his core vision:  bringing together the disparate—people and things some of which are already difficult, multi-faceted and therefore not easily and accurately defined—in order to create the intricate organism that, by the very nature of the way the world works today, is the necessary vehicle of an American legacy for future generations.

Complex thought is a disadvantage in the political sphere.  For this reason, among others, President Obama has been losing our confidence.  His fellow Democrats, Washington pundits and voters alike have placed the blame here solely upon the president himself, whereas most of the burden is ours.  Why?  Because all of us—with just the few exceptions to prove the rule—are refusing to lift our chins to that bar of higher complexity. (more…)

Change and the American Dream

“That’s what we’re doing to restore middle-class security and rebuild this economy the American way—based on balance and fairness and the same set of rules for everybody from Wall Street to Main Street.  An economy where hard work pays off and gaming the system doesn’t pay off, and everybody has got a shot at the American Dream.  That’s what we’re fighting for.”


The Essential Obama, 2. Long-Gamer


“’But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’


Last Change

“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.’”

Paul Tsongas, New York Times, January 14, 1987


The Essential Obama: Lesson One

Let me begin by returning to the beginning of my previous post, where I said that by August 2008 I knew only two things about Barack Obama.

He loves his daughters very much. (more…)

One Small Consequence of Change: Beating Up on President Obama

Three summers ago in a series of interviews I remarked that, even though I had been following the man closely for more than a year on the campaign trail, I knew only two things about Barack Obama.

He loves his daughters very much. (more…)

Season of Change

After a long break from writing, but not from thinking–is there any writer who has been able to shut off his or her mind, without alcohol? or yoga?–I’m back.  Where to?  Not sure.  But hopefully I’ll find my way via a series of meanders through the subject of CHANGE.

The last century was defined by three great wars, two hot and one cold.  The century before that:  materialism and colonialism, and their interdependence.  Before that?  The Enlightenment.  Will our current age be as paradigmatic as the eighteenth century?  Probably not.  But for us living it the twenty-first is turning out to be a roiling and unsettling ride, if not quite (yet) on the magnitude of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 that shaped  the philosophical debate and insight of that epoch. (more…)

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