Thursday, January 22, 2009
Campus Panorama originally uploaded by KAP'n Craig
No, it's not mine. I don't have a big kite, and if I did, I wouldn't know how to mount a camera on it, and even if I could, I wouldn't know how to control it to take eight matching photos and stitch them together (the stitching, maybe, but not the controlling). The photo, of course, is by Madison's own kite aerial photographer, Craig Wilson. (His Flickr handle, KAP'n Craig, is a pun on the acronym for kite aerial photography.) I love this image, the composition, the lighting, the shadows and the angle of view. And the panoramic perspective that turns the isthmus into a peninsula occupied by the UW.
This dinky little copy doesn't begin to do it justice. Click on either the title or his name (not the picture, I couldn't make that work) to go to his Flickr page and follow the instructions to view the panorama in its original size. If you want to see more of his work, he has an exhibit this month at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville. He'll be there this Sunday, Jan. 25, presenting a slide show and signing copies of his remarkable book, Hanging by a Thread: A Kite's View of Wisconsin.
I have to admit I was somewhat underwhelmed at first by President Obama's direct but understated inaugural address. That's because I'm a child of the Soundbite Age and didn't realize at first that Obama took this rare opportunity, speaking at a gathering that itself spoke more eloquently than anything he could say, to deliver a thoughtful speech that was written less for soundbite potential than for repeated listening and even careful reading. It was a speech designed to grow on you.
Something the talking heads on TV did not do. They had time to Google the closing quote, but apparently didn't, or they would not have reported the words as George Washington's. It took awhile for the true author of the quote to be properly identified, in part spurred by the progressive blogosphere.
At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:These were the words of Thomas Paine, of course -- the author of Common Sense, the famous radical pamphleteer of the American Revolution, and later, the French (one reason he went overseas after the war was that many did not appreciate his opposition to slavery). The text that Washington ordered read to help raise morale was the first of the series of pamphlets Paine called The American Crisis.
"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."
In a wired world, The American Crisis has probably been read more times in the last 24 hours than in all its history. The entire text is an eloquent account of how dire the situation seemed in December of 1776, and how much courage and leadership it took to keep the Revolution going in its darkest hour, to fight for freedom another day. It's fascinating reading.
The opening words are some of the most famous in American history.
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.These words took on new meaning during the Iraq war, and it's hard to see the indirect allusion as accidental.
Later in The American Crisis, Paine writes about the colonial Tories, the conservatives of their time. He writes that "servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism" -- tough words for tough times.
I have been tender in raising the cry against these men, and used numberless arguments to show them their danger, but it will not do to sacrifice a world either to their folly or their baseness. The period is now arrived, in which either they or we must change our sentiments, or one or both must fall.I love what Barack Obama did with Paine. Not only did the quote provide an eloquent close to the inaugural address, but like a pebble dropped in water, the impact of citing Paine's words from The American Crisis spread in ripples. Like so many parts of the speech, it embedded additional layers of nuance. The more you look, the more you see.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Wishes do sometimes come true... eventually. I photographed this a year ago on the UW-Madison campus. At the time, the html tag stencil grafitti expressed a wish. Back then, I hoped we would use the expedited constitutional form of dealing with high crimes and misdemeanors. It didn't happen, but better late than never. I'm posting the photo again to celebrate that it's not just a wish anymore. "President Obama" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
Monday, January 19, 2009
Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us. -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, April 4, 1967 transcript and audio
South Madison Gateway Project, 1987 sculpture by Milwaukee artist Ed Jeter. (Scroll down at the link for more information about this work of public art at S. Park St. and Beld St.)
I got tears in my eyes this afternoon watching HBO's streaming video of a surprisingly nimble 89-year old Pete Seeger performing "This Land Is Your Land" at the Lincoln Memorial with Bruce Springsteen at the Inaugural Concert. I don't usually watch these things, but I got hooked. No one thing, but the whole thing -- the crowd, the performers and the First Family-elect. It was a moving event, and a clear sign the Bush years are just about over.