Bill Barol Brings the Funny
The complaints about the New Yorker in the post immediately preceding this one notwithstanding, I think that this piece is hilarious. A sampler:
… My drone is the conversation-starter to end all conversation-starters. I don’t mean “end” in a killing way. What I mean is, when I have it parked in my driveway people will slow down and gawk and just start shouting stuff right there in the street. They’ll roll down their windows and yell things like “Jesus, what the hell is that thing?” or “Are you in the Air Force?” or “Did you steal that from the Air Force?” or “Holy mother of God, I think that’s a Predator drone!” I get a kick out of that one, because—this is a good example of the misconceptions about my drone—the Predator is a whole other species of bird. (That’s what we droniacs call them: birds. And we call ourselves droniacs.) The Predator is a killer / scout and used only secondarily against dynamic execution targets, while the Reaper is a hunter / killer first and an intelligence-collection asset second. Totally the opposite kind of deal. I mean, you’d no more primarily task a Reaper to collect intel than you’d let the kid from the Safeway take out your gall bladder. It’s apples and oranges.
I know what you’re thinking right now. Yes, I did have to have the driveway lengthened so it could accommodate the drone trailer, which is close to forty feet long. It also had to be reinforced, because my drone weighs about two and a half tons unladen, and that doesn’t count the weight of the trailer. And sure, that cost a lot of money. But look at it this way: my expenses went waydown when my wife and kids left me. One thing drone ownership teaches you is that when God closes a door he opens a window, and then you can shoot a Sidewinder through it.
That’s a drone joke. Obviously, you don’t need to open a window to shoot a Sidewinder through it. And in fact it’s probably better if you don’t, because of the surprise factor.
Do read the whole thing. It’s worth your time. (Thanks to Ritika Singh for the reference.)
Barack Obama Is So Awesome that His Awesomeness Impedes His Eloquence
Or … something:
… Obama isn’t a phrasemaker. I have the sense that he disdains the glibness of sound bites, for very good reason but also out of an incorrigible and self-undermining need to rise above politics. (What else but a sound bite was “with malice toward none, with charity for all”?) If Obama is the best writer-President since Lincoln, it’s not because of an extraordinary gift for language—it’s because of his breadth of experience and depth of thought.
The fact that Obama has given so few truly great Presidential speeches didn’t turn out to be politically fatal, but it’s not irrelevant. It’s made him more vulnerable, put him more on the defensive than he should have been. He’s never given himself a phrase or sentence to wield in the crunch, conveying an idea that’s simple and yet profound enough to embed itself in the public’s mind, and that truly defines his political vision. Obama is too complex, too nuanced, too elusive, and too careful, for words that stick.
Got that? If the president doesn’t leave us with any memorable phrases in his inaugural address, it is only because he is “too complex, too nuanced, too elusive, and too careful” to do that kind of thing. But he may still be “the best writer-President since Lincoln” because of his “breadth of experience and depth of thought,” so if we get no memorable phrases, it may only be because we don’t match the president in the “breadth of experience and depth of thought” business, in addition to not being “complex, nuanced, elusive, and careful” in our listening.
Of course, George Packer is able to give us examples of Obamaian speeches with memorable phrasing, but he tells us that those speeches were memorable because they represent instances in which the president has “been challenged as a thinker or touched as a man.” In the event that you are wondering why the president cannot be “challenged as a thinker or touched as a man” in advance of his inaugural address, it is because the president’s “strongest political impulse is inclusive, and inclusiveness rarely makes for great rhetoric.” I leave it up to readers to decide whether that means that in speeches which produced memorable Obamaian phrasing, the president wasn’t being particularly inclusive. I have trouble believing that to be the case; after all, Packer praised then-state senator Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, in which the future president stated that “[t]here’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” Sounds like an attempt at inclusion to me, and it certainly became a memorable phrase, but Packer assures us that inclusive Obamaian rhetoric doesn’t make it into our long term memory banks.
As one can readily tell, Packer has pretty much tied himself up in knots with his argument. But I think I know what’s going on here. Packer writes for the New Yorker, and he and everyone else working at the New Yorker are big Obama fans. I’m sure that they want the president to hit it out of the park with his inaugural address, but they may not be sure that he will be up to the task. So they are downplaying expectations for him. They have the freedom to do that, I guess, but I wish that Packer and his friends would stop portraying themselves as writers and journalists. Because if my suspicions regarding their motivations are correct, they are nothing more than spinmeisters.
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