My birthday present from Christopher this year was a trip to Chicago to see the Pixies in concert performing their album Doolittle. I bought the tickets — and Christopher agreed to come along and to not act too embarrassed about the whole thing.
As it turns out, we both thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Every song from the album was accompanied by a video of some sort projected on the back drop, which actually worked quite well to provide a visual supplement or interpretation of each song.
In late October Colleen and I took a trip by train from Ann Arbor to Chicago to see Lucinda Williams play at the Riviera Theater on the north side of Chicago.
(It was difficult to take photos while trying to not attract the attention of the ushers — Colleen managed to sneak this one.)
The concert was everything I expected and hoped it would be. She was in very good form vocally and the band played even better than whatever musicians happened to have played on the studio version of many of her songs (IMHO).
Weird as this sounds for me to say, given my usual preference for, um, high-energy music, the mix of songs in the set was decidedly more rock-oriented than I expected. But then, I guess it would be impossible to perform in just one 1-1/2-hour show *all* the roots/alt-country songs of hers that I would have wanted to hear, and that I love to listen to over and over again.
Photo taken on my cellphone from the grandstands at the Indiana State Fairgrounds while waiting for Obama to speak. Pretty good seats despite getting here relatively late. Feel like an old hand by now at attending presidential political rallies. Colleen says she feels like a groupie. Again with the rock concert comparisons. Excited, happy crowd anticipating a memorable event. Fan t-shirts and buttons and all everywhere. Should be an upbeat speech after last night’s debate and with the ever-increasing chance that Indiana will go blue this time.
A photograph of Melinda’s that was recently purchased for an undisclosed sum by an unnamed ad agency for use by an unknown consumer products company in a national ad campaign of some sort. The ad agency found it on Flickr, and apparently the client, whoever that may be, loved it and thought it was perfect for their campaign. (Photo by Melinda Taber)
Haven Kimmel signs a copy of her first book, A Girl Named Zippy (Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana), for Colleen after a reading at Big Hat Books in Broad Ripple.
Bicycled down to Steak ‘n Shake on a slow Sunday evening to say hi to Melinda and keep her company for a spell. Something different and fun. The way she looked at me you’d think she’d never seen me ride a bike to a particular destination — that is, for anything other than riding around the neighborhood. But she got me a glass of ice water and we chatted in between her frequent trips to look after her one table. I resisted the many entreaties from all the posters in the place to sample their delicious steakburgers, or frisco melts, or handmade milkshakes, or yoghurt parfaits.
It’s not every day that an amateur photographer’s picture is used to illustrate a Nobel Laureate’s work. While I can’t say that Doris Lessing is even aware that this online article exists, it’s still an honor for me that the UNESCO electronic publication, The UNESCO Courier, chose a photograph I had taken of Norman, a school child at the Clare school in Zimbabwe, to accompany their publication of excerpts from Lessing’s Nobel lecture, where she ruminates on schools she’s known in both Zimbabwe and London:
“…I was there some days. The dust blew. The pumps had broken and the women were having to fetch water from the river. Another idealistic teacher from England was rather ill after seeing what this “school” was like.
On the last day they slaughtered the goat. They cut it into bits and cooked it in a great tin. This was the much anticipated end-of-term feast: boiled goat and porridge. I drove away while it was still going on, back through the charred remains and stumps of the forest.
I do not think many of the pupils of this school will get prizes.
The next day I am to give a talk at a school in North London, a very good school, whose name we all know. It is a school for boys, with beautiful buildings and gardens.
These children here have a visit from some well known person every week, and it is in the nature of things that these may be fathers, relatives, even mothers of the pupils. A visit from a celebrity is not unusual for them.
As I talk to them, the school in the blowing dust of north-west Zimbabwe is in my mind, and I look at the mildly expectant English faces in front of me and try to tell them about what I have seen in the last week. […] I am sure that anyone who has ever given a speech will know that moment when the faces you are looking at are blank. Your listeners cannot hear what you are saying, there are no images in their minds to match what you are telling them – in this case the story of a school standing in dust clouds, where water is short, and where the end of term treat is a just-killed goat cooked in a great pot.
Is it really so impossible for these privileged students to imagine such bare poverty?…”
Photo © Mark Taber
Child holding a Shona school book
There’ve been only a couple brief, mild mentions of Senator Obama. Other than that, everything else was directed at squarely the Bush administration and eight years of disastrous policies and unequaled incompetence.
“it took a Clinton to clean things up after the first Bush, and it’ll take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush.”
…”I don’t mean to pick on dick cheney, but….” (laughter , applause)
“I worked hard to bring about universal health care and I wasn’t successful, but one thing about me I never give up.”
And this was big applause line in this large public high school: “and I will end the unfunded mandate known as ‘no child left behind'” whoa, red meat!
The audience seems to be for the most part middle-aged or beyond. And rather, um, homogeneous — something Colleen noticed since it’s in marked contrast to the demographics of the school district. Lots of union representation, with signs and shirts and all.
Good music selection while waiting, though — lots of upbeat, getting-things-done, bringing-about-change kinda songs. Springsteen, U2, Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, oh, and Mellencamp too, of course
We don’t expect to be converted, but since it’s at the high school in Colleen’s school district and since it’s not often a presidential candidate comes to Indianapolis, Colleen, Christopher and I decided to come see Hillary speak at the Ben Davis High School gym this morning.
Huge line of people outside waiting to get in. And now, with an hour to go before it starts, the gym is completely full.
All the volunteers helping out are teachers, so of course Colleen is stopping to talk with someone she knows every two minutes or so.
(don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got my Obama tshirt on under my jacket)
(Photo taken with, and posted from, my Treo — let’s see you do that on an iPhone!)
This afternoon I took a half-hour break from work to read the entire text of Barack Obama’s amazing speech (see link below) he gave today in Philadelphia.
Nothing else I’ve read or heard expresses so well, so succinctly — and so reasonably — the state of race in the US today. And how it relates to just about all of the other significant questions before the country as well — education, health care, jobs, the economy — for all Americans of all colors.
Reading this speech also reaffirmed to me why Obama truly is so different from anybody else I can think of who has ever before run for president. He’s not just spouting platitudes or repeating stock political phrases that have been focus-grouped for their acceptability. He clearly wrote this speech himself. It’s incredibly thoughtful and personal — as Christopher remarked, “it’s a speech he’s been writing all his life.” And it expresses an understanding or a belief, an optimistic belief, in America’s dynamic, progressive history — and its future potential — that’s very close to my own.
He’s also expressing a faith in the American people that they’re ready for someone running for president who’s truly different — and who tells them they need to think seriously about a serious topic, and to see both sides, and all the gray areas in between, of these issues. As well as to see that it’s possible to love and honor an important mentor in your life, even while you disagree strongly with some of his opinions and with the theatrical way he sometimes expresses them.
I’d encourage everyone to take the time to actually read (or watch) the entire speech, and see if it doesn’t make sense to you. I’m just afraid that all that’s likely to be repeated on the news or in most papers will just be a few, potentially unrepresentative sound bites.
It looks like the second half of 2007 was rather sparsely documented. Quite a bit actually happened, so be sure to come back soon for the rest of the 2007 story.
Christopher made his debut performance today with the Carmel High School marching band in the city’s Fourth of July parade. The weather was hot and humid, but the band sounded really good. And Christopher said marching in the parade wasn’t as bad as he thought it’d be. They apparently do a good job of toughening the kids up in practice.
Before the parade the saxophone section had a breakfast at the section leader’s house. On the drive over Christopher was a bit apprehensive about his first social event in high school, but he says he had a good time watching videos of past band performances and getting excited about playing in one of the top high school marching bands in the country.
Here’s a short video of the band playing a pretty good-sounding Stars and Stripes Forever several times at different parts of the parade route. You can spot Christopher by looking for the tenor saxophone player wearing the black shoes:
We saw a sneak preview of Sicko last weekend, and maybe it was the festive atmosphere of seeing it along with a full theater of similarly minded people, but I have to admit it was far more entertaining and funny than I ever thought a documentary about health care could possibly be — even a Michael Moore film.
He has really perfected his own particular genre of gonzo-satiric-documentary making. Techniques like where he plays the faux skeptic and then lets the real people he’s visiting set him straight — letting them make the point that he wanted to make in the first place, of course — “next thing you’ll try to tell me ,” he says with mock surprise to a group of Americans living in France, “is that in France the government will even do my laundry for me if I need it!” And then the next scene is of the government-paid nanny for new mothers doing the family laundry.
Or digging up archive footage of some obscure hearing to satirize the absurdity of the situation he’s exposing — e.g., Bill Frist and various US military officers going on and on and on about how well-cared-for the Al Quaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay are, and how they receive state-of-the-art medical treatment — in contrast to Moore’s 9/11 heroes who can’t get any kind of medical treatment for their conditions.
There are some things I wish he wouldn’t have glossed over or that could have been qualified even a little bit (like the care they received in Cuba almost certainly was for propaganda purposes — which he could have acknowledged without weakening the drama and irony of the scene), but overall it’s a remarkably effective, entertaining and in many ways even universal and non-partisan movie.
After the show, everyone in our group had stories of their own to relate about their experiences with health care insurers. Like my own insurer (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota) that routinely denies every single one of my claims for a particular doctor — even though these visits have been preapproved by the insurer and I have the documentation to prove it — and then just as routinely pays them immediately after I go to the trouble of calling up and inquiring.
And I’m sure there are a lot of other people throughout America, of all stripes and political persuasions, who have similar and certainly much, much worse stories to tell about their health care insurers.
So maybe this will be Moore’s more popular, most universal movie so far. Only the CEOs of health insurance companies, with their multi-million dollar compensation packages and gold-plated headquarters buildings and hospitals — as well as, of course, their bought-and-paid-for politicians who leave Congress to become lobbyists after doing the industry’s bidding — have any cause to not like this movie.
As of a couple weeks ago our family has two freshmen in it — and so the long-anticipated eight consecutive years of college for one member of the family or another begins.
Melinda attended Student Orientation at Ball State and got her official ID card and BSU email address and everything. The two-day orientation program was actually quite a bit more useful and interesting than I had anticipated. And it had the intended effect on me the parent — giving reassurance that our baby would be cared for and safe, and that she’d be given help and guidance to help her be successful academically.
And Christopher is pretty much a full-time student at Carmel High School already. Mornings he’s getting a jump on his 9th grade year by taking two summer school math classes (and getting A’s so far – whew!). And then afternoons he’s going to five-hour marching band practices — often held at the football field in the blazing summer heat. Still can’t get him to wear shorts, however.
And here she is, all graduated and everything. The ceremonies — a Baccalaureate Mass in the Cathedral gym on Saturday and then actual Graduation at Butler University on Sunday — were very nicely done and even moving at times, as I guess they’re designed to be.
Melinda’s now looking for a summer job to pass the time until she starts at Ball State in August with all her classes on the foundations of art and photography.
More photos are at: colleen-n-mark.com/photos/tags/graduation
Melinda’s graduation announcement. The photo is one that she took herself in a hotel room in Kentucky while on a band trip — not a typical senior portrait, I know, but one that I think shows her as she really is more than any portrait of her that I’ve seen. I made the announcement itself in iPhoto, after touching up the photo a bit with Photoshop.
After I moved back to the States from Germany in 1986, one of the first experiences I had in my new adopted hometown of Indianapolis was attending a speech made by Kurt Vonnegut at North Central High School.
At the time, I simply couldn’t believe that I was in the same room (albeit a very large one) as one of the greats of American literature. I knew he was from Indianapolis originally, but I hadn’t known that although he lived in New York, he still maintained close ties with the Indianapolis community and often visited for public and private events.
To learn of this ongoing tie between a world-famous author and his midwestern hometown was actually quite a bit reassuring to someone who was still a bit dubious about what kind of a city Indianapolis would be like to live in (after coming here from the likes of Heidelberg and Ann Arbor).
Colleen also encountered Vonnegut in Indianapolis, though in a much closer and more personal way — and even managed to speak a few words of German with him.
She happened by chance to run into him in July 2004 at the Indianapolis Art Center as she was picking Melinda up after her painting class at the Center. Vonnegut was chatting (and smoking of course) with a few members of the art center staff outside the building just before the premiere of an art exhibit featuring works by various members of the Vonnegut family. Colleen joined the group outside, shook Vonnegut’s hand, exchanged some small talk about speaking German, and (of course) took some pictures before excitedly going back inside to fetch Melinda from her class.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was to have spoken here in two weeks as part of the events surrounding Indianapolis’s "Year of Vonnegut." He will be missed.
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