Feiler Faster

My brother’s latest blog. He’s the official photographer of the Georgia Delegation.

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Considering I described myself yesterday as a pop culture moron, the funniest response I’ve gotten so far was, “Who’s Angela Bassett?”
In the wake of opening night there’s been a lot of play about Carville and company complaining about lack of “red meat”. I’ve been clear that I believe that’s indeed been missing in past conventions and that clear messages for Obama and against McCain are one of the things I’m most looking for this time ’round, but I actually feel that Monday night was played well. Very little is known of Michelle Obama by the average voter, frankly both the decideds and the undecideds. I think it was important to introduce her to the country and to begin the process of helping a lot of folks get comfortable with her as prospective First Lady. That was their primary mission last night, and I think her performance was stellar. Besides that, casting the prospective First Lady as attack-dog-in-chief would be pretty dumb all by itself!
If you look closely at the Convention floor, you’ll see some things that illuminate the battle to come. First of all, the delegations are seated on both the floor of the hall and in the first level of seats coming up toward the skybox level. A “Floor” credential is required to get into these areas. Above the skybox level, the next layers are reserved for “Special Guests”, “Honored Guests” and “(Lowly) Guests” with “Hall” credentials. Look at which states are on the physical floor of the hall. Up front you have Illinois and Delaware for obvious reasons as well as Colorado which is there primarily as host. Then you have Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If you want to know which states are considered the core swing states this election season, just look. And by the way, New York is on the floor too, a clear sign of the quest for unity and a nod to HRC.
Another thing to look at… this campaign is astoundingly disciplined when it comes to its graphics. From the outset, they picked colors (white and navy), fonts (sorry, geeky enough to notice but not to be able to name them), and a logo (one I’ve always thought was well done) and they’ve relentlessly stuck to these. Everything in the hall is within this graphic spec. The pole signs for the states, the names behind the podium identifying the speaker, the signs handed out to shake and stir at key moments in each speech. It’s a detail, but still this level of discipline is impressive. And to add a point of exclamation on this… the anti-McCain and pro-Hillary signs on the floor tonight… not in the Obama fonts or colors!
In the hours before primetime each night, one of the main shows is the side show: funny hats, clever buttons, creative signs. Among the signs seen today… “Trust Teachers Not Test Scores”, “Iraqi Americans for Obama”, and “Another Bi-racial, Asian American, Bisexual, Jewish, Buddhist, Feminist for Obama”! Along with these there is an astounding array of hand written signs all using the Obama “O” logo in the appropriate places in “Ohio”, “Colorado”, “Aloha”. See commentary above!
With all of this going on, the ultimate expression of Dem-mania is the clever, creative and over-the-top headwear and the ultimate expression of flashy fashion is Georgia’s own Maxine Goldstein from Milledgeville. This is Maxine’s eleventh convention and each year she builds a masterpiece of intricate design, rich humor and pointed politics. One of her creative wonders is in the Smithsonian and renowned photographer Eddie Adams once took her portrait for a documentary he shot one year at the conventions of both parties. This year Maxine has created quite a stir… she’s been interviewed by every roving journalist in the hall including live on CNN. Her creation this year is topped with a complete bathroom scene created out of paper and doll furniture and its front piece cries out, “Don’t let America’s economy go down the drain!”
Many of you have told me that you’re forwarding these posts around. I’ve attached here, and will do so going forward, the posts from prior days for anyone coming late to the string. Some of the best responses I’ve gotten are from folks who have said how much their mothers are enjoying all of this! The movement is indeed broader than those who text message. As for my own mother, she pointed out that there were a lot of typos. Of course she’s right (she is, after all, my mother), but it is well after midnight out here!

The latest entry from my brother’s convention blog.

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Since American presidential elections are often described as horse races, it seems appropriate to say, “And they’re off!”
The Convention was gaveled open today at 3:00 Mountain Time. Given that it didn’t adjourn until 9:00, you might wonder what fills all that time. The answer explains why the television coverage keeps shrinking. The clear focus is primetime in the East… thus the marquee content from 7:00 – 9:00 Denver time. Before the real show comes on, there’s some business (report of the platform committee, appointment of convention officers), some entertainment (from live musical artists to political videos) and lots of speeches by various folks ranging from some state’s attorney general to not so randomly selected average American. One memorable moment though came when Senator Tom Harkin opened his speech in sign language with the sign language interpreter providing the voice translation. Another came from a teacher who evacuated New Orleans during both Katrina and Rita and has since returned to help rebuild. A piece of 2×4 from her rebuilding efforts and signed by Barack Obama proudly sits on her coffee table. Still, I bet even C-SPAN is wondering if “gavel to gavel” coverage is such a good idea!
Wonk spotting has already become passé. After the xth Senator (Weyden, Stabenow, Cantwell, Casey), the nth media personality (Jeff Greenfield, Wolf Blitzer, James Carvel, Dan Rather…. hmmm, what’s he doing here?), and the xth other random politicos (Barney Frank, Ed Rendell, Jimmy Carter)… well, it is a political convention! As for real celebs… frankly being the pop culture moron that I am I probably wouldn’t recognize many of them anyway, but I did notice that Angela Bassett was sitting two rows in front of me.
Before all the proceedings started inside the hall, I was at a lunch at which Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois said something interesting. Noting that Senator Obama’s key note address from 2004 helped launch him on this “improbably journey”, Durbin said that he heard the speech in the hall but didn’t realize the impact that it had until after he’d left the hall. Interestingly, I remember having the same experience. I too was in the hall in ’04 and while it struck me as a good speech, it didn’t register as the amazing piece of oratory that it was quickly considered by so many. Stuck by the crescendo of reaction, I watched the speech again over the web on a convention site that had a camera fixed on the podium at all times. While this time I saw some of the magic I had missed, it was about a month later when I was at a function where the CNN feed of the same speech was shown. This feed was a totally different experience. It included cuts of audience reaction interspersed into Obama’s presentation, it captured the “dance” between speaker and audience in a way that highlighted the power of both the content and the delivery. It really was quite amazing!
Which brings me to tonight’s primetime ticket. Having Ted Kennedy muster the stamina and courage to appear amidst his battle with cancer was clearly an emotional high point in the hall. After Caroline’s terrific introduction, the moment Teddy walked out was powerful. The lion in winter. After that, I’m not sure why primetime was wasted on Claire McCaskill, but from where I sat Michelle Obama’s speech was amazing. A powerful story of living your values, the values of family, community and commitment. And next to her husband, I though her delivery was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time and conveyed strength, warmth and sincerity. I’ll be very interested to see how it played outside the hall.
After walking out of the Pepsi Center tonight, I looked up and the lights of Invesco field – where Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night – all of the lights were pointing straight up forming a huge and dramatic beacon far up into the sky. It was immediately a striking reminder of the two beams of light that so beautifully and sadly marked the World Trade Center towers soon after their horrible fall. It reminded me anew of the wounds that have not healed and how the real path forward, one of in keeping with America’s finest values, has yet to begin. But it was with these emotions in mind, and clearly in the context of this amazing movement to restore America, that as I continued to marvel at the light I saw in it as well a beacon of hope.

I’m tied up in a family matter these days and unable to blog as much as I would like, but my brother is the official photographer with the Georgia Delegation at the Democratic National Convention. I’m pleased to post here his daily blog.

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Welcome to Convention Blog 2008. For those of you who were along for the ride in 2004, welcome back. For those of you new to the scene, it is my hope to share with you the real privilege of being part of this critical milestone in our presidential selection process.
Some have become cynical about these quadrennial fetes, but I believe they play an immensely important role. They signal the real start of the fall campaign, that period where the undecideds start to pay attention and un-undecide themselves. They provide both camps with the opportunity to clearly lay out their arguments – about themselves, about their opponents, about their vision, about us, about what we can be. Sure this is a big pep rally and those of us fortunate enough to be in hall are props on the set, but it’s also highly relevant and can affect the outcome of a race that quite simply has enormous consequences.
One of the side sports at a convention is wonk spotting, an appellation that’s clearly commentary on the spotter and the spotttee. So far, the list includes George Will, Jim Lehrer, Ray Suarez, Al Sharpton and Ken Salazar. Of these, I can report that I found Lehrer to be exceptionally warm and gracious. As for Sharpton, well, you knew he’d show up somehow, somewhere. He was screeching at a podium set up in front of the Art Museum… to an ad hoc assemblage much smaller than his ego. Of particular note, Will is writing a biography of Wrigley Field and opined that of the new baseball parks the finest is Pittsburgh. You didn’t expect to get ballpark architectural critique from the Democratic Convention, did you?
Scenes from the tented market set up in the park in front of the state capitol…
• A button with a pink ribbon… “I survived Bush, too!”
• Sign held aloft… “Please don’t feed the leftists”
• A t-shirt with “Hope” written in eight languages
• And especially fun… Russian matryoshka nesting dolls… with Obama on the outside! Three different variants actually… one with five different Obama visages; one with Dem presidents… Obama (aspiring), Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy; and one with African American leaders… Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Andy Young and Julian Bond.
And amidst all of these displays you can pick up organic coffee and a sleep number bed!
Also, for those of you blue folks in red states, check out, brought to you courtesy of those in the Alabama delegation from Birmingham.
As we sit on the eve of Convention 2008, I thought I’d offer a bit of what I’ll be looking for in the coming days. Presidential campaigns are unlike any other political contest in America. The rules and workings are simply different… electoral math, message containment, the commander-in-chief test. I believe that one of several core layers in such contests is branding. A successful candidate has to succeed in defining himself (or, one day, herself) and in defining the opponent. In the past two cycles, the Bush camp did this extremely well. They defined themselves with little challenge from the Dem opposition, and they largely prevailed in defining their opponents as well.
Which brings us to 2008. Will the Obama campaign clearly articulate what they stand for (“change” is not a mandate for actionable direction)? Will the Obama forces successfully fend off the attacks of the McCainiacs who seek to paint their own spin on Brand Obama (recent tightening in the polls reiterate this concern)? And, especially significant, will Obama and company articulate a clear picture of John McCain that debunks the mythology (nascent efforts in recent days may bode well)?
So, that’s the look from the eve of. Gavels bang and cameras roll tomorrow.

The AJC says the number is at 150,000 in the U.S. alone — and rising. The paper profiles a former evangelical couple who are making the conversion. “For a black male to put on a kipah and go wandering around in a predominately black community, you get the strangest looks,” said Pamela Harris.

Highland, where Pamela Harris works as the senior nonclerical staff member, at least eight of the roughly 20 people learning about Judaism with Rabbi Hillel Norry are black.
At the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody, roughly 20 percent of the nearly two dozen people enrolled in Steven Chervin’s introduction to Judaism classes are black.
Although there are no sound statistics on the subject, anecdotal evidence suggests that, in the past 15 years, increasing numbers of black Americans are exploring Judaism, said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.
“Ten years ago, it was almost unheard of that a black person would come in and want to convert,” said Rabbi Ilan Feldman, who is working with the Harrises and two other black people pursuing conversion.

The numbers here seem a little large. I’ve been to dozens of synaogues in the last few years and I can count the number of black Jews I’ve seen on one hand. Am I missing something?