Aug. 26th, 2008

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I didn't have big plans to watch this. While I'm pro-Obama, I'm not real excited about it. He's got promise, but I'm turned off by how mainstream he was up until the point that he responded to Rev. Wright. That was one hell of a speech. Anyway, yesterday I decided on a whim to check out the coverage on CNN.com (I don't own cable).

Though most Americans get bored with watching conventions, I think they're still instructive. It's one of the few times you can see something political without the media companies editing the hell out of it. Of course, the party edits itself well enough to make up for it. It's a very slick affair. I miss what I never had: floor fights, platform planks, and actual determinations being made by delegates.

Still, it's an instructive thing. I wish I'd checked yesterday to see whether KPFA had coverage. I've gotten out of the habit of listening to KPFA because I'm asleep when their issues programs are on. And the weekday afternoon music programs turn me off. But I don't think there's a political pundit in this country who can beat Larry Bensky. He's done excellent work. Just now I saw that they're doing coverage but it doesn't jibe with the visuals I'm seeing on CNN.com

Anyway, if you're interested in oratory and performance, it's worth a gander. Most speakers have a style that many people pick up in school: get through without flubbing words, declare, declare, declare. It's pretty robotic. Now, it's a tough room. Think of what a barn that place is. Think of how hard it must be to get people's attention in stadium like that! The big names have an advantage. If you're a small fry, it's a struggle to really connect among an audience that's milling, on their way to the restroom, thinking about how much food costs at the snack bars... Yet I listen and I think of how much better it would be if these people would memorize the major points of their speeches and speak off the cuff. But it's never going to happen because they're too worried about someone going "off-message" at best and of making a terrible gaffe that the campaign will have to distance itself from or disavow. Oratory suffers for this.

I have to admit my memory is not what it used to be so I'd want to rely on the TelePrompter, too. But you don't have to be a slave to it. You make eye contact with whoever you can make it with. You throw in ad libs. You speak in a way that's a bit more natural instead of this canned cadence that most of the speakers have.

How long has it been since you've seen a barn burner of a speech? Esp. from someone who didn't have the audience in his/her hand by virtue of who they were. God, it's been a long time.

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